The last 18 months have been a major set-back in the British policy landscape affecting carbon emissions from buildings with several policies being abolished or downgraded. Following the vote to leave the EU, there is now considerable uncertainty around the future of UK energy efficiency policy. This is despite the fact that an increase in policy action is required: In June, the 5th Carbon Budget was adopted by government setting firm carbon targets for the period from 2028 to 2032. Parliament approved them in July 2016. Reaching those targets will require bold and ambitious policy action across all sectors, including buildings.

In this paper, we analyse whether or not the UK is on track to meeting its carbon targets. Through modelling of a range of scenarios for the period 2016–2030, we show that the government’s own projections for abatement indicate that the UK will not meet the 5th Carbon Budget in buildings. Worryingly, a large part of the projected abatement from buildings (85%) is considered by the Committee on Climate Change to be ‘at-risk’, and after the vote to leave the EU, there is uncertainty around which previously EU driven policies driven will remain. In other words, the majority of projected emissions abatement from buildings is seen as uncertain and may not be achieved.

We also illustrate what would be required in order to meet the carbon targets including the technology mix and potential policy options. Our research shows that the benefits of meeting the 5th Carbon Budget in buildings justify considerable public and private investment to capture them. We quantified the main costs and benefits generally considered for formal policy impact assessments, calculated in accordance with official guidance. We show that there is a strong economic case for investing in upgrading the UK’s building stock.