Climate impact of new buildings still too high, says independent expert

France's fossil fuel phase-out plan is rated yellow, however, meaning it is insufficient because "it lacks detail", particularly on the phase-out of gas boilers. [Shutterstock/JJFarq]

New standards to reduce carbon emissions in the building sector will not be enough to meet the EU’s 2030 and 2050 climate targets, according to a recent report by Building Performance Institute Europe (BPIE), an independent expertise centre. EURACTIV France reports.

Europe is not setting the bar high enough to reduce the energy consumption of buildings, according to the new report, which was published as Europe is struggling with a huge increase in energy prices.

“Unless all EU member states become more ambitious, energy and carbon emission reductions in the building sector are likely to be insufficient to meet Europe’s 2050 decarbonisation targets,” said Oliver Rapf, BPIE’s executive director.

The report published on Tuesday (18 January), titled “Ready for carbon neutrality in 2050?”, analysed six geographical areas and countries – Flanders, Germany, Italy, Spain, Poland and France.

The result is clear: only France and Flanders have implemented measures that are considered sufficiently ambitious in at least one of the four priority areas – phasing out fossil fuels, limiting carbon emissions, setting a minimum share for renewables, and implementing binding standards to limit energy consumption.

“The findings of this report suggest that the decarbonisation of new buildings in the EU is proceeding too slowly and inconsistently,” the paper says. In particular, it points to discrepancies between countries in the performance standards of new buildings.

“There are realistic doubts about the ability of current policy frameworks to move new buildings consistently towards carbon neutrality by 2050,” the report continues.

Waiting for the revision of the directive

BPIE’s work highlights the efforts Flanders and France have made to reduce emissions from the building sector. In particular, the report mentions the French ban on oil-fired heating in new buildings from January 2022, as well as the high requirements for renewable energy.

France’s fossil fuel phase-out plan is rated yellow, however, meaning it is insufficient because “it lacks detail”, particularly on the phase-out of gas boilers.

However, it is uncertain whether the revision of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive, which was presented by the European Commission in December, will even bring about change.

According to the BPIE, the proposed revision is not ambitious enough, particularly in terms of the performance levels required.

“EU policymakers now have the opportunity to reinvigorate the European low-carbon buildings agenda,” according to the report. The revision of the directive “provides an opportunity to update definitions, energy performance criteria and renewable energy benchmarks, ambition levels of standards, and other important elements,” the report also writes.

The revision of the directive “should focus more on reducing energy demand and implementing the principle of energy efficiency,” according to one of the report’s recommendations.

“Metrics to measure operational and integrated carbon emissions should also be included in the revision of the directive,” the report also says.

The building sector accounts for 36% of the EU’s carbon emissions and 40% of its CO2 emissions.

[Edited by Frédéric Simon]

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EU funded

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 893858.

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