How to leapfrog towards net-zero buildings at COP26

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Only 53 out of 186 countries that have submitted Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change mention energy efficiency in buildings. [Viessmann]

The impact of climate change is already felt, COP26 must take decisive action to deliver on the 1.5-degree scenario.

Max Viessmann is the Co-CEO Viessmann Group and CEO Viessmann Climate Solutions.

Ambitious goals have been set for the summit in Glasgow: COP26 can bring us back on track to stabilize the global temperature increase at 1.5 degrees. The talks must focus on buildings: homes, schools, workplaces and recreation areas in which we spend up to 90% of our time and which are responsible for almost 30% of global carbon emissions.

And yet, only 53 out of 186 countries that have submitted Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change mention energy efficiency in buildings. The majority do not even specify climate targets for the sector, or for the decarbonisation of heating energy carriers.

Getting the building transformation on track with climate science

Viessmann is an active COP26 participant, both attending and taking part in discussion panels, to highlight that we have to close this gap: energy efficiency, the decarbonisation of energy carriers, and emissions reduction targets and milestones for buildings must be included in the next cycle of NDCs with a firm commitment to the net-zero building stock. We will present the case to put people first to ensure sustainable living spaces for all.

A successful building transition will massively reduce carbon emissions while improving our quality of life. And it will be smartly embedded in the overall energy system transformation. We will get there by using the whole toolbox available to us: heat pumps, renewable-ready combustion technologies, heat pumps/combustion hybrid solutions, self-consumption of on-site PV,  reduced energy needs by envelope upgrades, district heating and digitalisation.

What is needed is a clear regulatory framework for the investments in technology innovation and adequate financing to roll out these solutions at scale – nobody should be left behind. As part of its Fit for 55 package, the European Commission has delivered strong proposals on how to accelerate the building transition. When implemented, the legislative package can serve as a roadmap for other regions. Closing the financing gap for building decarbonisation – which currently stands at over 185 billion euros annually in the EU alone – will be essential. COP26 has to provide unequivocal direction,  but leveraging the private sector will be the key to success.

Science-based targets are the compass of our operations

As CEO of a more than 100-year old family business, I am keenly aware that it is also upon industry to take decisive climate action. “Life happens when you are busy making other plans” is a quote by John Lennon. Today, climate change is already happening – we can feel its direct impact on our daily lives – while we are still busy negotiating how to achieve the climate targets.

We must work together and galvanize actions to deliver on our commitment to a net-zero world.

Today, Viessmann has released its Climate Report. We commit ourselves to becoming a net-zero company by 2050. To get there, we will reduce emissions from our own operations by at least 48% in absolute terms compared to 2019 levels. This means a 75% reduction compared to 2005 despite our high growth. We commit to empowering people, partners and suppliers to radically reduce their CO2 emissions.

This relates to our second climate target: We will reduce our economic emission intensity by 55% by 2030 compared to 2019 levels. That means in practice: we will shift our operations to heat pumps, PV, new business models for energy-saving services, and combustion technologies that are ready to operate with renewable energy carriers. I am proud that this vision is anchored in the clear framework provided by the Science-Based Targets’ Initiative, with an ambition level that is in line with a temperature increase of a maximum of 1.5°C.

The seismic shift towards renewable heating and cooling solutions is already underway, we are advancing our investments. The most recent example is our new range of heat pumps tailor-made for the building stock. The large-scale roll-out of heat pumps running on green electricity clearly is the backbone of decarbonizing heating. A truly sustainable heat pump wave encompasses products operating on natural refrigerants without environmental setbacks, with optimal electricity use and minimal noise, and all functionalities for full electricity grid integration.

Leapfrog towards net-zero buildings

Viessmann is fully committed to becoming a net-zero company and now has a clear roadmap on how to get there. This motivates the 13,000 Viessmann family members across the globe and me every day to co-create living spaces for generations to come. We will mobilize all our resources, innovative engineering capacities, partner networks and thought leadership to make this system transformation a success. Together with communities, homeowners, tenants and the whole building sector we want to leapfrog towards climate neutrality.

I am certain: There will be no energy transition without a building transition, without the extensive use of heat pumps, without complementary use of green gases to ensure system stability and without empowering citizens and communities to take an active part in an affordable and flexible transition. Let’s make sure that the movement for a global building transition towards net-zero and healthy living spaces starts here in Glasgow!

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