Green new deal for housing will ease climate and social crises

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By Khakimullin Aleksandr

Recent years have seen greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption increasing, while 50 million EU citizens live in energy poverty. Addressing climate and social crises requires a green new deal for housing to unlock vast investments in building renovations.

News reports around the EU’s strategic agenda for the years 2019-2024 show that leaders are zooming in on four priorities in response to a changing and more complex world. There is not a single mention of buildings, houses or homes in the draft text.

This must change when leaders meet to decide on the strategic agenda during the European Council meeting on 20 and 21 June. Investing in construction and renovation can help Europe to implement all four priorities.

The building sector is responsible for around 36 percent of European CO2 emissions. This means that getting buildings right is vital in the fight against the climate emergency.

Fortunately, buildings can fully decarbonise by 2050 using solutions such as better insulation that are already commercially available. This would lower the total cost of achieving a climate-neutral Europe by helping to reduce peak heating and cooling demand.

Buildings are also critical for tackling Europe’s social problems. Millions of people are still living in leaky houses that they cannot afford to properly heat or cool. This has a significant impact on their health, as up to 90% of our time is spent indoors.

Buildings are part of the social fabric of our societies and, if ignored, can add to inequality. In some countries, the poorest households spend up to a quarter of their total income on energy.

Most of Europe’s buildings (up to 97 percent) need to be renovated to realise a climate-neutral EU, with comfortable and affordable homes.

But building renovations are happening far too slowly to even come close to meeting this objective.

Given the urgency of the task ahead, the time for a piecemeal approach is over. We need a complete transformation of our building stock within three decades to tackle the twin crises of climate change and social inequality in Europe.

This requires vast investments in renovation. The worst energy performing buildings must be phased-out to guarantee comfortable, energy-efficient homes for all EU citizens. An extra 130 billion euro per year is needed to fill the massive investment gap for energy efficient buildings.

Such an economic stimulus package will lead to healthier, more productive citizens, improved quality of life and millions of jobs in the construction and building sector. By investing in our homes, EU leaders can show that climate action and good living conditions go hand-in-hand.

It is time for a green new deal for housing. After all, a better quality of life starts at home.

By Femke de Jong and Marc Bosmans from Eurima (the European Insulation Manufacturers Association)

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