Buildings renovation: The low hanging fruit for emissions savings

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV.COM Ltd.

A concerted effort to renovate Europe's ageing and inefficient building stock would enable the EU to reduce waste and improve economic opportunities, says Eliot Whittington. [Alexander Svensson / Flickr]

With real estate responsible for over a third of the EU’s CO2 emissions, legislating to improve energy savings in the building stock is a low hanging fruit that our governments would be mad not to pick, argues Eliot Whittington.

Eliot Whittington is Director of the Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group.

A staggering 97% of European building stock is not currently energy efficient. With buildings responsible for over a third of the EU’s CO2 emissions, this represents unconscionable waste, real suffering for those in energy poverty and a significant barrier to meeting the emission-reduction targets in the Paris Agreement on climate change.

To keep global warming below 2 degrees, we need to renovate 250 million homes across Europe by 2050: more than twice as many as currently projected. This is a huge opportunity: not only to deliver for people and the planet, but also for businesses to improve the wellbeing of European citizens by creating jobs, enhancing skills and making the most of new technologies.

In a report published today, Renovation Roadmap, a number of businesses from The Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group and its network call for a more ambitious approach by national governments to remove the barriers to increasing energy efficiency.

These companies are all involved in energy-efficiency renovation of buildings (the majority through providing materials and equipment). They are committed to doing their bit to increasing the energy efficiency of Europe’s building stock but they need European governments to provide the framework for them to make the necessary investments.

In a shifting and uncertain world, Europe needs to work out how and where it can best develop its economy and ensure the most comfortable and prosperous life for its citizens. A concerted effort to renovate its ageing and inefficient building stock would enable the EU to reduce waste and improve economic opportunities.

But this will only happen if member states step up their action. The current approach of relying on ad-hoc voluntary measures is not delivering the scale of change and action required. Governments need to make more energy efficiency measures compulsory in order to provide certainty for investment by business and homeowners.

By legislating for the renovation of buildings at key trigger points, and to a minimum performance standard policymakers could unlock the huge low cost energy efficiency potential in the buildings sector. It’s low hanging fruit that our governments would be mad not to pick.

The EU has recently revised its Energy Performance of Buildings Directive, which provides a framework for action. However, for real transformative change to take place, EU Member States need first to implement and then go beyond EU guidelines.

The EU has long led the way in setting the global agenda on climate change. But if it wants to retain this leadership position it needs to take action on buildings. This makes sense for business, for citizens and the planet.

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