Cañete calls on cities and regions to focus on energy efficiency in buildings

The EU's Climate Commissioner addresses the Committee of the Regions. [Committee of the Regions/Flickr]

Climate Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete yesterday (14 October) told representatives of Europe’s cities and regions to focus their climate change efforts on energy efficiency and especially the renovation of buildings.

Cañete was speaking at the plenary session of the Committee of the Regions in Brussels and called on local leaders to put energy efficiency first in their policies.

“Cities are at the heart of the fight against climate change,” he said, “it’s where most of us live and where most of our energy is consumed.”

75% of homes in the EU were inefficient, he added, and smart renovation could cut up to 40% of the bloc’s energy consumption.

“We can make considerable gains […] energy efficiency has an important role to play in the achieving of our climate goals in the EU and globally,” he said.

EU policymakers have recognised in the flagship Energy Union plan that the renovation of the bloc’s building stock can bolster energy security and fight climate change by reducing consumption. In October, EU leaders agreed to increase energy efficiency by 27% by 2030, in comparison to 1990 levels.

Today, EURACTIV exclusively reported new research that showed deep renovation of buildings could save billions of euros in electricty grid and generation investment.

>>Read: Renovation could save billions in grid investment, say researchers


But regional leaders told Cañete that accessing EU finance for renovation and efficiency remained a problem.

Andre Jaadla, of Rakevere in Estonia and of the ALDE liberal group, said, “The renovation of existing housing is key part of the solution but the level of investment has not been sufficient in remote and rural regions.”

Jaadla said the Commission should use the upcoming reviews of the Energy Efficiency Directive and the Energy Performance in Buildings Directive to ensure access to finance was made easier. Heating and cooling buildings continued to be the largest sources of energy consumption in Europe, he added.

The Commissioner pointed to the executive’s upcoming strategy on heating and cooling. He said the reviews of the two directives – which member states have failed to consistently implement – would focus on how best to get the rules onto national lawbooks.

>>Read: 27 member states hit with EU legal action over energy efficiency

Cañete said that €150 billion of cohesion funds was earmarked for climate action. But he conceded that getting funding was not always easy.

The Juncker Investment Plan, handled by the European Investment Bank (EIB) through the European Fund for Strategic Investment, could be an alternate source of cash, he said.

“It is very easy for the EIB to fund gas pipelines or other big projects,” he said, “There’s a problem that energy efficiency projects are rather small.”

Regions needed to aggregate the smaller projects, he added. “I call upon you to lump together projects so that you can get funding,” he said.

Cañete pointed to an initiative in France that had bundled together efficiency projects to secure EFSI money. “This is something that needs to be rolled out across the EU,” he said.

The EFSI fund totalling €21 billion of risk guarantees is expected to generate €240 billion in private investment.

Cañete was speaking in the run up to the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris on 30 November. World leaders will meet in an effort to seal a deal capping global warming at no more than two degrees above pre-industrial levels.

The Committee of the Regions has four spots on the EU delegation travelling to Paris and Cañete promised there would be regular updates on the talks’ progress.

The draft deal does make mention of a role for cities and regions in the fight against climate change. After the plenary, Cañete told EURACTIV he was sure that aspect of the pact would survive negotiations in Paris.

>>Read: COR President: COP21 will be a failure if cities’ role not enshrined in final deal

The Renovate Europe campaign says that, thanks to modern technology, buildings' energy demands can be cut by 80%. But, it adds, in order for that to happen, there needs to be an effective regulatory and legislative framework in place. Today (15 October) is Renovate Europe Day.

World leaders will meet in Paris in November and December in an effort to seal a deal capping global warming at no more than two degrees above pre-industrial levels.

>>Read: Special Report: An Efficient Energy Union

30 November: UN Climate Change Conference in Paris


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