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Net zero targets

The Government has legally binding targets under the Climate Change Act 2008 to reach ‘net zero’ carbon emissions by 2050. Meeting this target will require a range of actions across sectors of the UK economy that are responsible for emissions. Housing is one such area as it currently responsible for around 14% of UK emissions.

Background information is available from the Library webpage on Climate Change: an overview.

Policy to decarbonise homes

The Clean Growth Strategy was published in October 2017 and includes several targets to improve energy efficiency: to upgrade all fuel poor homes to Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) band C by 2030; to upgrade as many homes as possible to EPC band C by 2035 (where practical, cost effective, and affordable) and to improve business energy efficiency by 20% by 2030. There are several policies to help meet these targets.

Further developments are expected in the coming year, for example the Government is expected to publish a new heat strategy (including future heat and energy in domestic homes), while the Government’s independent advisors, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), have recently set out the range of policies needed, in its view, across several Government Departments in the near to medium term.

Retrofit policy

The Energy Company Obligation (ECO) is a requirement for energy suppliers to install energy efficiency measures in the homes of eligible vulnerable, low income, or fuel poor customers. The Green Deal (now privately funded) also supports energy efficiency and renewable technology retrofit through loans. The Government have also introduced minimum energy efficiency standards for private rented homes (with some exemptions).

The 2019 Conservative manifesto included new commitments on energy efficiency. The Government also announced further support on energy efficiency as part of the economic response to the coronavirus pandemic. This included a Green Homes Fund which will provide two thirds of the cost of energy efficiency installations up to certain limits.

New build policy

The major Government policy in this area is currently the development of the Future Homes Standard. The energy efficiency of new homes is controlled through building regulations, and a consultation on this part (part L) of the building regulations closed on 7 February 2020. It proposed a two-stage approach, with measures to achieve either a 20% or 31% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions in 2020 regulations and a 75-80% reduction in 2025. Concerns have been raised by some that policy as planned may not deliver enough improvement in building fabric efficiency due to the gains from more efficient heating. A response to the consultation, and next steps, is expected in Autumn 2020.

Comment on policy

Past Government action on energy efficiency has been criticised. For example, the CCC in their 2020 report to Parliament, noted that:

Buildings saw some limited progress in the past decade, with emissions falling 14% in the period 2008-2018, or 13% after adjusting for above average temperatures. However, after policy-driven success in the first half of the decade, there has been minimal progress in recent years.

Energy Efficiency is a devolved matter and this briefing broadly relates to policies in England.

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