Commission must not take its eye off the ball for decarbonisation by 2050


By Adrian Joyce, Renovate Europe Campaign Director

26th November 2018


The news that 10 EU Member States including France, Italy and Spain are demanding that the European Commission chart a “credible and detailed” path to full decarbonisation by 2050 must have come as a surprise at the Berlaymont.  The letter was a stirring clarion call to action that brooked no misunderstanding: “We encourage the Commission to set a clear direction towards net zero GHG emissions in the EU by 2050,” the energy and environment ministers wrote. 

Such a direction would have to involve an emergency scaling down of the nearly 40% of our emissions that currently come from buildings.  This would mean a major escalation of current renovation efforts.  Yet there are some signs that the European Commission may, as far as buildings are concerned, be proposing something much less ambitious, perhaps even taking its eye off the ball completely.

A leaked staff working document last month suggested that the Commission was only modelling scenarios involving a reduction of final energy consumption of between 18-40% in the residential sector between 2030 and 2050.  By 2070, it said, these percentages would only have increased “incrementally”.

The Renovate Europe campaign has called for an 80% cut in energy waste from buildings by 2050 – and that call has been backed by MEPs in the European Parliament.  It is the least that we need to do to reach our long-term goals.

Some commentators have expressed fears that the strategy in its current shape is far off track to achieve 1.5°C and believe it to be in stark contrast with the urgency of action enshrined in the new IPCC report.  In the IPCC report we see that reaching 1.5°C would require building emissions to be reduced by 80–90% by 2050, new construction to be fossil-free and near-zero energy by 2020, and an increased rate of energy refurbishment of existing buildings to 5% per annum in OECD countries.  We are far from achieving these numbers!

While it was positive that the leaked paper recognised the “huge potential” of highly efficient and decarbonised buildings to accelerate emissions-cutting programmes, it is baffling that it seems to under-utilise that potential in its analysis.  That disconnect between diagnosis and prescription must be rectified in the final version.

Reducing the heat lost by poor thermal insulation in Europe’s buildings is “crucial” to meeting the Paris climate goals, the paper says.  Buildings are Europe’s largest single energy consumer and gas and oil make up around 62% of their total heating inputs.  But the document then takes a neutral-to-positive view of a shallow renovations strategy that, inexplicably, appears to deliver higher energy savings by 2050, but lower ones by 2070.

Similarly, it is well and good to note that heating accounts for 60% of a building’s energy use – 65% in residential homes – but perplexing to then see behavioural change, fuel mix and biomass addressed in greater detail than the significant and permanent CO2 cuts offered by deep energy renovations.

Surprisingly, despite the low rate of new annual constructions, nearly zero energy buildings could still account for as much as a quarter of all Europe’s building stock by 2050, the Commission paper argues.  Thanks to the amended Energy Performance of Buildings Directive, these properties “will be fully insulated, and make use of their shell (rooftops, walls and also windows) and soil occupancy to produce renewable electricity from solar PV, solar heat or geothermal heat pumps.”

Even so, the leaked analysis recaps the scale of the renovations challenge in the EU today: 97% of existing buildings need partial or deep renovation; achieving the minimum Paris climate targets will mean more than doubling Europe’s current 1-1.5% renovation rate to 3% per annum, and quickly.

It is to be hoped that renovation efforts in the final paper will be focussed towards deeper energy renovation works at the worst performing end of the building scale, which the document elsewhere says should be prioritised.  Because on their own, the measures discussed in the leaked working paper will not be enough to deliver on the EU’s pledged transition to a low carbon society.

We are reaching a critical stage of the journey and of the energy decarbonisation process itself.  From here on in, the stakes will only get higher and the pressures greater.  The Commission will need clarity, nerve and vision to chart the path to 2050.  It must not take its eye off the ball now and it must give the buildings sector its rightful place in achieving a better Europe.


Read it on EURACTIV 

Why the indoor renovation ripple effect could save our lives

By Adrian Joyce, Renovate Europe Campaign Director

22nd November 2018


Christmas is not just a time of mistletoe and wine with the family.  It’s a time of coughs, sneezes and wheezes as the temperature drops.  One reason for this is that we spend so much time indoors.  On average, we spend more than 21 hours of each day inside buildings and the colder it is outside, the more likely we are to be curled up on a warm sofa – and exposed to particles, mould and bacteria.  It is counter-intuitive but concentrations of air pollutants indoors can be up to five times greater than those outside.

Temperature, draughtiness, light and noise also play an outsized role in our wellbeing.  But buildings can still be overlooked or underestimated.  They are simply too close to home, and as scantly noticed as the air that we breathe.

However, a new ‘Buildings 2030’ report by the Buildings Performance Institute Europe (BPIE) is shining a spotlight on it. For the first time, the study measures and quantifies the extraordinary effects that energy renovations can have on wellbeing and productivity in schools, offices and hospitals.

The report’s headline figures are eye-catching.  Europe’s students could shave two weeks off their school year with better indoor air quality.  Hospital patients’ recovery time can be abridged by 10 % (about a day per person), with savings of up to €50 billion.  Most impressively, workplace productivity could soar with benefits worth as much as €500 billion Europe-wide.

The reasons why are not hard to fathom.  Poor air quality is a drain on human resources.  Too much warmth causes tiredness and inattentiveness.  Too much cold fuels asthma, allergies and headaches.  High levels of carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone and volatile organic compounds can create sick building syndrome and trigger a range of ailments.

The International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood has found the prevalence of such maladies rising among European children, linked to poor indoor and outdoor air quality.  But the ripple effect from energy renovations could change all that.

Clear lighting – including daylighting – can raise feelings of freshness, creativity and productivity in a workforce.  The opposite is also true.  Poor lighting leads to eye strain, headaches, bad posture and more frequent accidents.

Noise is another under-rated aspect of the quality of life.  Good acoustic indoor environments reduce stress and aid calmness, concentration and responsiveness.  When noise insulation is poor, diminished cognitive performance, and reduced concentration and memory all too often result.

The BPIE study found that where the best indoor environment aspects were aligned, workers were less drowsy, healthier, more alert, focussed and productive, and with higher morale.

This could also be quantified in reduced rates of absenteeism, lower staff turnover and fewer business disruptions.

Altogether, the average employee’s improved annual performance was worth between €1,000 and €6,500, the BPIE found, after extrapolating from hundreds of reports.  For an office of 200 people that would translate to annual savings of around €600,000.  For Europe as a whole, it would amount to around €500 billion per year gross value added – as much as the Juncker Commission set out to leverage in its flagship EFSI programme over the five-year life of this Commission.

Students would enjoy their time inside buildings more if the air quality were better.  In warmer, drier and better ventilated schools, children are present more often and take fewer sick days off, resulting in less overall spending on healthcare.

For those already in healthcare facilities, high quality indoor spaces reduce the average patient’s stay in hospital by around 1 day, the BPIE paper says.  This slashes financial overheads and frees up staff time, improving access to resources for health services.

Most importantly, faster recovery times from illnesses improve the quality of life for all and, in common with other multiple benefits from energy renovations, do so for a fraction of the cost of treating the maladies.

“The cost of renovating these buildings is modest compared to the many benefits, including healthier, happier and more productive citizens,” says the study. “An enhanced building stock will facilitate a better quality of life and a more competitive European economy.”

So, what are we waiting for?

Efficiency or economy? We can have both… or neither

By Adrian Joyce, Renovate Europe Campaign Director

22nd November 2018


Energy efficiency and a strong economy are sometimes counterposed against each other as if they were a zero-sum choice. “It’s all very well touting luxury renovations, but in the real world investors need a return,” discordant voices will say.  The International Energy Agency’s Energy Efficiency 2018 Outlook study is a useful corrective to this position – so useful in fact, that its neglect in the media was quite shocking.

In it, the world’s foremost energy economists found that efficiency savings could provide more than 40% of the climate mitigation that we need by 2040 – if we are to meet the Paris climate goals – while doubling the value of the global economy at the same time.  What’s more astounding is that under this ‘efficient world scenario’, we would doubly benefit in our daily lives.

Air pollution, energy imports and fuel poverty would all tumble – and energy bills for consumers would plunge by more than $500 billion a year.  By the IEA’s reckoning, households could save $201bn in avoided expenditure on gas and electricity, and $365bn on transport fuels.

That is more than the sum spent on tourism by the four highest-spending countries in 2017 – China, Germany, the UK and USA.  Taking this path would also cut global greenhouse gas emissions by 12% at the same time.

Energy efficiency and the economy are not an “either-or” equation so much as a “both or neither” one.  When costly and crucial “externalities” such as wellbeing in outdoor or indoor spaces are considered, the balance sheet is even more skewed towards climate action.

The IEA’s ambitious scenario would reduce killer emissions of SO2 by 42%, NOx by 29% and PM2.5 by 15%, compared with 2015 levels.  The early death toll linked to indoor air pollution could be slashed by around one-third.

In so doing, the energy saving effort would also cut fossil fuel bills for key importers such as China, the EU and India by up to $300bn, $190bn and $189bn respectively.

The bottom line is that energy efficiency is “indispensable to achieving global climate targets,” the IEA says. Its report envisages 60% more building space within 21 years – and 20% more people – but with energy use only marginally up from today.  As the paper warns though, the train to this world is quite literally leaving the platform and there is no time to waste if we are to catch it.

The world’s leading climate scientists reported last month that we have just 12 years left to implement a suite of strong policy measures if we are to stop climate change reaching catastrophic and uncontainable levels.  Experts believe that the next two or three years are a “critical window” that will make or break efforts to tackle the climate crisis.

According to the UN IPCC, pegging global warming at 1.5C – a level 50% higher than at present – will require a reduction in building emissions of up to 90% by mid-century and a four-fold increase in the renovation rate to 5% per year in OECD states.

This is a daunting but just about doable task.  It is also why the agency’s other key finding is so vexing: While “targeted policy action” will be needed to achieve the agency’s Efficient World Scenario model, global energy efficiency improvements have been slowing down for two years now.

Fewer new standards and policies are being introduced and this is helping growth in energy demand. Total spending on efficient buildings and appliances leapt by 3% last year, to $140bn.  But that was little more than the 2.5% investment growth for the building sector as a whole.  Worse, the annual growth rate for efficient buildings and appliances slowed between 2014 and 2016.

By 2040, most buildings will need to be either highly energy efficient and new, or already deep energy renovated, the IEA says.  At the rate we are going, it will not happen.

While the agency’s analysis holds out a signpost to a better world, this will not arrive on its own.  Indeed, the “critical window” we need to squeeze through could well slam shut before we have escaped.  What then for those who fret over investment in better buildings now?

We can decarbonise and double the value our economies, increasing our health, happiness and productivity as we do so.  Or we can continue on a business as usual path to planetary disaster, with the economic implications that follow from that.

Let’s not forget: Losses from warming of 5 degrees have been estimated at $7 trillion – more than the total market capitalisation of the London FTSE.  Global flood damages alone on a business as usual path are projected to cost up to $1.8 trillion later this century.

Is this really such a difficult choice?

"Upscaling Energy Efficiency will not happen by itself"

Interview with Adrian Joyce, Renovate Europe Campaign Director

26th October 2018


It’s often been tough to convince people to listen when you talk about energy efficiency.  That’s frustrating for people who know how central it is to any credible plan for decarbonisation.  To start with the basics, why should people care about the amended Energy Performance in Buildings Directive (EPBD)?

It is one of the most important changes that has occurred in the EU buildings sector in the last 15 years.  At last, EU legislators have recognised that our biggest problems are not the standards we use for our new buildings but the ones we use to renovate our existing buildings.  In part because of hard work by EuroACE and others, awareness has been raised around the fact that our existing buildings consume more than 40% of energy and emit more than 36% of our CO2 emissions.  If politicians are serious about achieving climate goals by 2050, then the buildings sector absolutely must be addressed, and this has been our key motivation in preparing a detailed guidance note on the amended aspects of the EPBD.


How much will the Directive save in emissions terms, relative to 2005?

In 2005, total energy consumption in the EU was around 1,800 million tonnes of oil equivalent (mtoe).  So, by achieving the new requirement to make the building stock highly energy efficient and decarbonised, we can reduce overall energy consumption by 360mtoe by 2050.  But there are more good reasons for doing this.  By properly renovating our building stock we will actualise multiple benefits for industries, businesses and society at large.

At the same time, as a large amount of energy used in buildings comes from burning fossil fuels, particularly gas for heating, we can reduce our reliance on imported gas by around 60%.  Just treating the building sector will reduce energy demand in the overall economy by 32% if we achieve our goals.


How much of the emissions cut that the EU has pledged by 2030 will come from buildings?

According to Fatih Birol, the IEA’s Chief Executive, treating buildings could meet 40% of the emissions reductions needed by the whole world, cost-effectively keeping us within safe climatic limits while improving our energy security and economic growth.  Our sector is the most readily accessible for achieving dramatic cuts in emissions.  With the right political will coming onstream, the right level of upscaling could occur in the next decade, but it needs ongoing and persistent political drive because it is not going to happen passively by itself.


It’s worth pointing out that the EU has not proposed binding targets for energy efficiency…

True, this is a weakness of the new legislative framework that we are concerned about as indicative targets in the past have not shown themselves to be really motivating for national governments.  In our view, having ambitious binding targets is a central plank to achieving longer term goals.


The same was true of our current 2020 climate goals which the latest Eurostat projections say we are not on track to meet.  How can we ensure that the next lot of objectives are met?

This is the beauty of the amended EPBD.  It includes an amendment requiring Member States to develop national long-term renovation strategies (LTRS) for their building stock to 2050 that will transform them into Nearly Zero Energy Buildings (NZEB).  This precisely matches our ambition, now captured in legislation, and a point of particular rejoicing for us because we feel we had a strong influence in winning that.  But it makes a lot of sense, of course.  Work on buildings doesn’t happen overnight.  Any project requires upfront planning, design, financial resources, technical resources, the right products all coming together to create the right set of measures to produce the highly energy efficient buildings we need.  An average deep renovation project will take – from the first decision-point through planning, design and construction to the keys being handed back to the owner – maybe from 9-12 months to 3-4 years.

Without a long-term perspective, we simply won’t mobilise society to achieve that transformation in time. The LTRS will be established by Member States in the coming 18-24 months and will then, be reviewed every five years, approximately.  It means we can adjust as we go to take advantage of technological advances and changes in societal wishes or culture - and real climate impacts - so we can crank up our ambition over time.  I’ve long held the view that the most important decade in terms of activity for energy renovation will not be 2020-2030 but 2030-2040, because it will take us the next 12 years to properly ramp up and bring all actions to the right scale.

The EPBD also requires Member States to involve and consult with stakeholders around LTRS.  That means our partners working on the ground will be able to directly influence the national plans - and they’re the ones who know what’s needed and can help make that happen in the process.  So that should lift a burden off the shoulders of governments.  The Directive effectively obliges action plans for monitoring and evaluation, as strategies are rolled out across Member States.  That was missing in previous legislative efforts. - a mechanism to ensure that strategies have real teeth, with well phased implementation.  If they don’t, we will raise our voices and make sure that the updates every five years will include those kinds of actions that can be tracked, monitored and evaluated.  In this, the new Energy Union Governance Regulation should be an ally.


What will happen if strategies go ahead as they did in the run up to 2020, with an absence of good faith?  That they’re often cursory, quickly put together, shoddy in execution, unthought through policies with minimal actions really, the least they can get away with, often aimed at the wrong properties, and with little mention of trigger points or renovation passports.  If all that happens, how can you hold governments to account?

It’s not our job to hold the Member States to account but we will lean on the European Commission to do that if we see the trend of today continuing, where indeed the building sector’s energy consumption is stable or slightly increasing, when it should already be falling.  Through our national partners, we hope to have the intel to know early enough if strategies are not having the desired impact and why.  We would then take action on several fronts:  Raise awareness of good practices and of countries where work is advancing well; alert the European Commission, urging them to take their legal duty in hand to enforce action by the Member States; lead by example in improving the buildings that are occupied by our members and partners etc.


Given that the targets aren’t binding how could they do that?

The requirement in the EPBD for Member States to prepare strategies that lead to a transformation of the building stock to NZEB by 2050 is binding!  The Commission, if it has been given the right milestones against which to measure progress, can then challenge the Member States on that strong legally binding basis - if progress is not being achieved, and the transformation we need by 2050 is being endangered.


Can you talk me through how this will all work in practice - the progress indicators, decadal milestones, and how these fit into the overall national energy and climate plans?

Indeed, there’s a great deal going on and we’ll find, as we did in past, that with 28 Member States, there will be 28 approaches to how the milestones will be set, how monitoring and evaluation takes place and how national actions precede EU actions to ensure that we are on track.  We hope that our Guidance Note will help here too as we highlight key approaches that should be adopted by Member States to ensure effective LTRS are rolled out.  But each and every State has its own national development strategy and really the LTRS should form an integral part of those as the buildings sector is the lifeblood of the economy.  In most Member States it represents more than 50% of fixed capital assets.

We all live, work and are educated in buildings, spending usually more than 90% of our time in them so without treating the building stock as a key infrastructural element, in good condition, you can’t have a vibrant economy.  For that reason, I’d expect national governments to realise that without including the buildings sector and their LTRS in overall medium- or long-term social and economic plans, they’re going to be heading for failure.  With LTRS that contain clear milestones at each decade built on a full and proper understanding of the age, nature and energy consumption of the building stock at the start point, Member States can develop a chart to steer their way towards NZEB by 2050.  With the monitoring and evaluation, again we’ll find that in some countries that will be at national level, in others it will be at regional or city level.  But it will be up to us as stakeholders - and the general public at large - to be alert to under-achievement and then to raise the alarm.  I think with the political mood in Europe at the moment of distrust in traditional parties, the engagement at more grassroots level is possibly a vector that will help in that monitoring and evaluation of progress.


In that context, what role can unglamorous but influential arenas – the national and regional levers of power – play in local stakeholder consultations? How can they be a counterweight to the deadweight of treasury thinking, which is often disengaged, disinterested - or downright sceptical - about the importance of this issue?

You mention treasuries and finance ministries which, indeed, in the past have been a major drag or millstone around the neck of ambitious politicians wishing to advance energy renovations of the building stock.  But I predict they’re about to be outflanked by banks and mortgage lenders, as those institutions which are highly risk-averse see the impacts of climate change on the building stock as being very severe.  If buildings are not resilient and well-prepared for climate change, if they’re not ready to accept decarbonised sources of energy then their assets - and buildings comprise the lions’ share of assets owned by banks and mortgage institutions - will be at risk.  So, I think the finance ministries will be outflanked by the availability of private money.  The banks have an opportunity to improve their reputation, because they can provide preferential loans that allow people to improve their homes, comfort and wellbeing through energy renovations.  But coming back to ministries, rest assured that will continue to hound those finance ministries and address, as best as we can, the lacuna in governance at national level within the EU.


There certainly seem to be many in industry and government across the EU that have reverted to a decades-old stance that climate spending is a luxury compared to the growth imperative, and we risk sacrificing our competitiveness if we move faster than the rest of the world.  How hopeful are you that governments in Europe are going to really walk the walk on climate change, and not just talk the talk?

This morning, I read an article on the BBC website, where Clare Perry the UK climate change minister said that when she heard talk about ambitious climate action, her first question was ‘Who pays for this?  What is the cost of climate action?’ I’d like to turn that around and ask her: What is the cost of inaction?  I expect it is much higher.  We can go back to the Stern report of 2015, which found that for less than 2% of GDP we could succeed in mitigating the effects of climate change but, getting on for a decade later, most governments still haven’t woken up to that call.

In the Urgenda case in the Netherlands, social pressure on government which legally proved that the government was not taking enough climate action is maybe a sign of things to come.  There’s another case in the ECJ that has been fought also by some of the smallest island nations on the planet who face a direct threat from climate change.  I think we are going to see governments being held more to account and if we can get some Prime Ministers or Heads of State to be much more motivated on this issue, maybe their finance ministries will follow suit and release the money needed.


On the issue of climate targets, some people say that in the context of the IPCC’s Special Report 15 – which outlined the differences between 1.5°C and 2°C in terms of climate change – our targets needs to be rethought now.  Do you agree and how should they be rethought if so?

EuroACE has always supported the call for a 40% binding energy efficiency target for 2030.  That wasn’t achieved in the current round where we got a 32.5% indicative target in the EED.  However, there’s a crank clause in 2023 and we will be working to ensure it moves significantly upwards then.  We also know - and Commissioner Canete has said himself - that the addition of the 32% renewables and energy efficiency targets effectively mean that we will reach a 45% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2030.  That still falls well short of where we need to be.  The best science says the EU needs to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 60% by 2030.

Several reports coming out now show that this is achievable but that the societal implications are very challenging because each and every one of us has to make choices and our lifestyles will change – not necessarily for the worse – but they will be different. Without that, we will fail to achieve that level of ambition and this reinforces the central role of the buildings sector, because of its high energy use and emissions at the present time.


In the UK, the Greens had an eye-catching proposal for a 4-day week which doesn’t need explanation, it cuts through immediately.  Do you think that could feed into a quality of life approach to politics in which energy renovations – with all its multiple benefits in terms of air pollution, reducing energy poverty and so on – could be central?

EuroACE is not a political organisation, but we take heart from the Renovate Europe Campaign which we run, and which enjoys huge support in the European Parliament.  Over 100 MEPs signed our call, across seven political groups from 23 Member States.  It is a cross-party issue and that’s heartening.  What should happen at Member State level is that government and opposition parties should work together with stakeholders in the preparation of long-term renovation strategies.  That should ensure that over time, as the political colour of governments change, the strategy stays the same - because it was accepted as a consensus issue from the outset.  That’s the political message we want to come out with and, whatever your political persuasion, our guidance note should help.

EuroACE is convinced that the amended EPBD can make a serious contribution to mitigating climate change, despite the challenges we’ve talked about and, as a result, we’re the first association to develop a comprehensive guide to the amended parts of the EPBD.  It will be launched at a webinar we’re holding on the 8th November in partnership with the Build Up Platform and the guidance note will appear on our website on that same day.  The document sets out the major changes affecting the buildings sector and gives guidance - not an interpretation, which is a job for others – on how EuroACE believes that Member States should pursue and implement the changes to the directive.  Reading that document will give a strong flavour of all the challenges we’re facing and some of the best ways of going about implementing them.  I strongly advise anyone reading this article to download and take account of the guidance produced by EuroACE.

This interview was conducted by:

Arthur Neslen

Independent Environment and Energy Journalist


Read the Interview with Adrian Joyce on eceee:

Will changed political dynamics threaten our collective climate goals?

By Adrian Joyce, Renovate Europe Campaign Director

27th September 2018

Political observers in Brussels are concerned that the perceptible shift to the right in European politics will intensify with the European elections scheduled for May 2019.  No-one knows how dramatic the shift will be, but those of us that have been fighting to put energy efficiency centre-stage are getting worried.

Long term renovation strategies may not be a phrase that quickens pulses across the EU but in the context of the coming political shift, it could hold the key to maintaining the purpose and direction of our climate policy.  The antipathy of populist forces in power towards energy conservation and emissions-cuts has long been known, although many voices continue to strive to change this.

I have heard reports that at least one Cabinet Member from a CEE government, who wishes to remain anonymous, has said that: “Energy efficiency is number 15 on the priority list for my Prime Minister right now.”  And this is despite the fact that putting energy efficiency higher on the political priority list will benefit CEE countries proportionately more than other EU Member States, given their starting point.

With a further shift to the right and towards so-called populism, will we see energy efficiency falling further down the priority list of EU Member States from North to South and from East to West?  This would be truly worrying.

Therefore, it is becoming increasingly important to adopt and sign-off on key policy measures, so that our collective ambitions have a greater chance of being achieved.  One excellent way of doing this relates to Europe’s commitment to curbing energy consumption in buildings – a central plank of policy to meet the Paris targets – as set out in the amended Energy Performance of Buildings Directive and in the Governance Regulation.

Six months before the parliamentary elections, EU Member States are due to submit the first draft of their long-term renovation strategies.  These will be included in annexed reports to their draft national energy and climate plans (NECPs).  These will, among other things, outline their blueprints for reaching the EU’s 2030 target of at least a 40% cut in carbon emissions, measured against 1990 levels.

Final versions of the NECPs – without long-term renovation strategies – will have to be submitted by December 2019, before final versions of the renovation plans are filed, in March 2020.  This may seem like a cumbersome process and was seen by some as such when it was agreed, but these cog-like mechanisms of accountability provide oversight and can ensure follow through on courses of action that Member States have committed themselves to.

In the case of the long-term renovation strategies, Member States must show how they intend to cost-effectively transform their building stock into nearly zero energy buildings (nZEB) by mid-century.  They will have to provide detailed measurable progress indicators and decadal milestones, as well as policies and actions targeted at public buildings and the worst-performing segments of their stock.

Countries also have to demonstrate how they will mobilise investment for these projects and demonstrate how smart technologies and well-connected buildings can positively impact on energy savings.  Crucially, the amended Directive instructs Member States to consider potential “trigger points” in a building’s life and proposes schemes for introducing building renovation passports.

These two measures are key because they really do have the potential to triple the current renovation rate – from 1% to 3% – the least we will have to do, if we are to meet the Paris goals.  Trigger points are key moments in a building’s life – when it is bought, sold, extended, rented, repaired or refurbished – where energy renovations would be less disruptive and more economically advantageous.  If the current regime of energy performance certificates were to evolve – at the national level – into building renovation passports, then building owners would have a user-friendly way of moving at these crunch moments.

The building renovation passports would contain the output from technical on-site energy audits based on quality criteria amassed over a building’s whole lifetime – with clear and cost-effective recommendations for deep renovations.  Innovative schemes incorporating these ideas are already up and running in Belgium (Flanders), France and Germany.  There, participating building owners have access to information about their building’s thermal comfort levels, air quality or daylight entry times and angles.

The more that such policy platforms are mainstreamed into NECPs now, the more that serious planning is undertaken now and the more obstacles are removed now, the more likely the plans will be to deliver on a transformation of today’s building stock.  But the reverse is also true – hence our concerns about possible future changes in the political landscape.

If Member States’ long-term renovation strategies are poorly devised, uncoordinated with other factors, and haphazardly put together by disinterested civil servants, we will not progress.  Put simply, the main reason why our buildings account for a third of our CO2 emissions is that more than three quarters of them are energy inefficient.

Successive generations of policymakers have not adequately addressed the issue meaning that we must, because we will still be using more than three quarters of the buildings we see around us today, in 2050.

Cutting emissions from our buildings is a race against time and the stakes are far too high to allow a shift to the right in the European elections to lead us to frittering this opportunity away.


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