Please don’t let climate targets be (deliberately) misunderstood


By Adrian Joyce, Renovate Europe Campaign Director

27th September 2018

The agreements on the various parts of the EU clean energy package were hard fought, but their signing marks the beginning of the battle to implement them, as much as it does the end of the struggle to agree them!

In part that is because debates are continuing in Europe over the ambition we can afford to show in our climate policy in the years to 2030 – and beyond.  It is also because the costs of not acting now could soon overwhelm our ability to act at all, as recent studies alarmingly highlight.

Europe’s climate package has settled a direction of travel – and a shared destination – but it also left questions aplenty about how best to make the journey.  Those are the questions we need to talk about now.

Despite the EU’s progress in reining in emissions, the percentage of energy guzzled by buildings has stubbornly remained stable over the course of this century. Of late, it has begun heading upwards again, despite significant policy developments in the field at EU level.  At present, Brussels and Dublin (Dun Laoghaire Rathdown) are the only European cities that we know where all renovations have to be carried out to exceed minimum national energy efficiency standards and thus match up to the recently adopted vision for 2050 for our building stock.

That’s why the measures agreed in trialogue to ensure that long-term renovation strategies set the direction, purpose and accountability of Member States in the revised EPBD are so important.  Essentially these strategies will be roadmaps with an action plan on how to transform a country’s building stock by 2050, including decarbonising it, to nearly-zero energy standards.

They will have to include measurable progress indicators, milestones for the years 2030 and 2040, and explainers for how they fit into overall national energy and climate plans.  The strategies must also list policies and actions targeting the worst performing building stock – and public buildings – and they should reference trigger points in a building’s life and possibly use building renovation passports to stimulate timely, cost-effective energy renovations.

It’s laudable stuff but there is many a slip twixt cup and lip!  A policy – any policy – is only as good as the efforts authorities put into implementing it.  For long-term renovation strategies, they face many questions now:

  • What kind of consultation will Member States undertake with various stakeholders before deciding policy on their renovation strategies?
  • How will policy decisions filter down from national government to the local and city authorities that implement them?
  • How will those authorities prioritise energy efficiency in buildings, when faced with issues like low carbon mobility, renewables or recycling commitments?
  • How persuasive will regional development and housing departments be when confronted with disengaged or disinterested treasury ministries?

More than anything, are the EU Member States, their regions and cities going to walk the talk on reducing the billions of tonnes of carbon emissions that seep from our leaky buildings every year?  Because really these questions all boil down to one:

Are we serious about trying to prevent a climate catastrophe and ready to put energy renovation first?

Reader, if you are, you can hear more about the issues at our annual high-level Renovate Europe Conference in the European Parliament today.  And if you can’t make it, look out for our communications on its outcome!


Europe must roll up its sleeves and put climate action first in the next MFF

By Adrian Joyce, Renovate Europe Campaign Director

30th July 2018


In the midst of a catastrophic heatwave, it might seem odd to make the case for building insulation in the next Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF).  But there’s no choice: it is unanswerable.  Why? Because this torrid summer is not just a trigger for extraordinary drought management measures, it is a harbinger of the new normal that awaits us, unless we act now.

Don’t just take my word for it.  As the World Meteorological Organisations’ Deputy Secretary-General Elena Manaenkova said on July 26: "The heatwaves and extreme heat we are experiencing are consistent with what we expect as a result of Climate Change caused by greenhouse gas emissions.  This is not a future scenario.  It is happening now.”  More than a third of the emissions Manaenkova was talking about come from our buildings, and we will not meet the Paris climate goals without dramatically paring those emissions back.

It is vital that we shift into a mindset for systematically resolving the climate crisis, while there is still time to do so.  Studies show that energy efficiency – particularly in buildings – offers the most cost-effective way of cutting planet-warming gas emissions.  It slashes air pollution and energy poverty, while at the same time delivering a myriad of additional benefits.

That’s why the International Energy Agency said that 75% of Europe’s additional spending to meet the Paris targets should come through energy efficiency.  For that reason, the EU’s new budget is to be commended for increasing the ringfence on climate spending to a quarter of its total, even if this is less than the 40% earmark that President Macron said we could achieve.

In its own initiative report, the European Parliament had demanded a 30% ringfence by 2027, and it is to be hoped that MEPs will still have something to say about that when they debate the issue in September.

With the European Commission on track to miss its 20% set-aside for climate spending in the current budget, we must remember that implementation depends on political will.  The signals sent out by national governments and the Commission play a large part in that domain.  It is also still unclear precisely which 25% of budget funds will be allocated to climate measures – and which climate measures they will be allocated to.  In the last budget, ‘greening the CAP’ captured the lion’s share of revenues, even though the European Court of Auditors declared it ineffective.

Taking all that on board, here are three suggestions for how to use the available resources to best effect in the 2020-27 period to bring down Europe’s greenhouse gas emissions:

  • 1) Give the money directly to cities. At the moment, EU funding goes through national authorities, which give monies to regions, which share them out accordingly. But as well as housing most of Europe’s citizens – and buildings – cities have proven themselves to be among the most dynamic and ambitious actors in fighting climate change.

Where building renovations are concerned, they lead the way in training, awareness raising, funding schemes and district-level interventions.  From first-hand experience, they know how and where to make the best climate investments in an efficient way.  They are locally accountable and have a welcome knowledge of (and focus on) the renovation of privately-owned dwellings.

Empowering city authorities in this area could improve the take-up and roll-out of Europe’s energy renovation policies and strategies.  And it could fine tune their implementation and local governance, especially if the duration of project funding calls were to be extended.

  • 2) Guarantee funding for energy renovations. Cohesion funds have been the largest contributor to Europe’s energy renovations programmes in recent times, but the Commission wants to cut their account by a headline 7% figure in the next MFF.  Depending on how you do the math, some experts say that could translate into a reduction of up to 14% in real terms.

Ministers in Central and Eastern European governments report that it is already difficult to persuade their treasuries of the benefits of energy efficiency spending.  A shrinking of the overall pie in the 2020-27 period will not make this any easier.  On the other hand, sending out a clear political signal that links Cohesion Funds to national climate plans – and renovation spending to them – might help to turn the tide.

  • 3) Put climate change on a par with defence, security and migration. These latter three areas are certainly ‘hot button’ topics and it is right that the EU’s coming budget addresses them.  But climate change is literally a matter of life or death for Europe, and the world.  There are no armies, nations or migrants on a dead planet.

Governments and EU officials must not be blown off course by media frenzies.  Let’s not forget that climate change is already one of the most powerful drivers of migration and military conflict and will only become more so as it advances.

If you think our summer heatwave and droughts have been bad, imagine how Africa, Asia and Latin America will fare after 2030, when planetary warming will cause an extra 250,000 early deaths each year, and an additional 100 million people to live in ‘extreme poverty’. Consider what consequences that will have for us in Europe, in an increasingly inter-connected world.  And then tell me that climate spending today is a luxury we cannot afford.

There are other steps that we could and should be taking.  Lifting the revenues available for energy renovations from the EU’s LIFE programme to 1% is one.  Another would be a concerted focus on upskilling our work force so that it can respond to the needs of the new green economy.  Really, this is a non-negotiable, if we are serious about the shift to a no-carbon economy.

As E3G has argued, InvestEU – the successor to Jean-Claude Juncker’s European Fund for Strategic Investment – should also be operationalised for the task ahead, with clearer sustainability requirements.  Mainstreaming climate action into innovation spending and setting out clear criteria for the spending of the 50% of ETS revenues that Member States will receive, would also help to join the dots that currently are at risk of rearrangement into some very different pictures.

Money is a resource and resources make opportunities. Europe has not yet left the crossroads it arrived at ten years ago, when it approved its first landmark climate package. It is time to roll up our sleeves and grasp our opportunities, while we still can.

Croatia’s renovation projects can teach us as much as their football

Croatia_football_celebration-800x450 (1)

What do Croatia’s football team and its energy efficiency programmes have in common? Experience, skill, tenacity and an inspiring amount of success.

Croatia may not have lifted the World Cup this year – and the country may not be the first place that decision takers would think to turn to for policy advice. But if they do, they will find a source of inspiration at least as surprising as the national team’s exploits on the football pitch.

Between 2014 and 2016, a €220m energy renovations programme benefitted more than 15,600 family homes, 2,300 multi-unit buildings, 80 commercial buildings and 262 public buildings!

A good example of the sort of public building works in play about can be found in Karlovac hospital, near Zagreb, which has a catchment area of 140,000 people, and sees 1500 patients daily.  That hospital has been transformed after a €7.2m investment and four months of remedial work – with minimal disruption to patients and staff. Its yearly CO2 emissions have been more than halved – the climate mitigation equivalent of planting 113,000 more trees. Annual heating savings are also expected to be above 50%, as are annual financial savings.

And the cost of the deep refurbishment should be paid off within 14 years, from the savings on energy bills brought by the renovation works. These include the installation of new heat pumps, cooling systems, solar thermal collectors and a 25% renewable energy supply.

The public-private partnership behind the makeover worked with an ESCO mobilising 60% of the finances from private investors and 40% from the Croatian energy efficiency fund.

Altogether, around 250 workers were employed on the build, with 32 mostly nearby companies giving a boost to the local economy.

Karlovac was no outlier. An ESCO-led energy renovation of the Clinical Hospital in Split produced almost identical results for reduced energy consumption. Another swimming pool, also in Split, achieved a 71% energy savings rate after renovation, while Lepoglava prison now receives more than half of its power from renewables.

Compared to traditional public procurement practice, renovation contracts in Croatia are simpler, standardised and more transparentThey have been completed up to seven times faster and with significantly lower administrative and total costs.

One very hopeful sign is that Croatia’s energy efficiency champions began acting early on an interpretation of accounting rules that Eurostat recently confirmed was correct – and can now be applied across Europe. This states that ESCO’s must carry the risk on these projects – for cost over-runs, delays, failures to meet energy saving commitments etc – and, in return, they may reap the rewards.

Eurostat last week revised its accounting rules, allowing local authorities to stop counting as public debt the building refurbishment work they undertake as part of energy performance contracts, writes Quentin Genard.

Energy refurbishment programmes have been applied to Croatia’s high-rise buildings, to private homes and commercial buildings. A guarantee scheme for ESCO’s similar to the one set up in Bulgaria may be the next step. As with the national teams occasionally erratic defending, there is room for improvement in Croatia’s energy renovation picture too.

The EU’s next long-term budget for 2021-2027 offers a unique opportunity to demonstrate the tangible benefits that EU policies and funding can deliver to citizens on the ground.


The next MFF, with its increased ringfence of funds for climate mitigation, holds out the prospect of a sustained and effective focus on renovation in the decade ahead that could see Europe itself taking the next step to success on the international clean energy stage.

Croatia’s achievement in advancing the energy efficiency revolution is a beacon that should be celebrated, just as we have been thrilled by their triumphs on the football pitch.

Read Full Opinon on Euractiv:

REDay2018 9 October: Key Tools to Boost Energy Renovation

Key tools to boost energy renovation

The amended Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) contains a vision for 2050 for the buildings stock in the EU – it will have to be highly energy efficient and decarbonised, reaching cost-effective nearly zero energy levels.  As a result, it is time for action and the Member States will need to be armed with all the right tools and resources to achieve this challenging and necessary vision.

This year’s Renovate Europe event, to be held inside the European Parliament in Brussels, will look at how to plan properly for the achievement of this 2050 vision.  We will have presentations from all levels of governance from the EU to the local, city level passing through the national and sub-national levels.  Our invited audience will represent a cross-section of concerned stakeholders ready to assist the various levels of governance to play their part in the transformation of the building stock in the EU before 2050.


Digitalisation of Energy Renovation to boost Youth Employment


Brussels, 29th March 2018

With an ageing workforce in the construction sector, and persistent youth unemployment across the EU, the digitalisation of the energy renovation sector is the ideal tool to address both issues, by creating a more attractive sector for the younger generation”, explained Adrian Joyce, Director of the Renovate Europe Campaign, speaking at a joint Renovate Europe – Youth Intergroup event on Wednesday 28th March in the European Parliament.

Indeed, as collaborative robots, drones, prefabricated materials (often involving 3D printing) and other automotive processes sweep through the energy renovation sector, the construction industry is rapidly shedding its traditional image of muscular manual workers battling tough weather outdoors, in favour of a digitalised, innovative and safer working environment.

Digital solutions have the great potential to reach women and young people, nowadays underrepresented in the sector, by alleviating burdensome physical tasks and creating new high qualified jobs”, explains Eugenio Quintieri from the European Builders Confederation (EBC). “In order to exploit this potential, digitalisation needs to become massive. This will only be possible by developing digital solutions that are affordable, easy to access and that constitute a real added value to construction SMEs and craftsmen, that represent the vast majority of the sector”

The multiple benefits that will flow from such a transformation are undeniable, but there is a need to support this transformation to ensure that it is inclusive and entails enhanced collaboration across the value chain, highlighted Domenico Campogrande from the European Construction Industry Federation (FIEC).

MEP Brando Benifei, Vice-Chair of the Youth Intergroup and host of the joint event, was clear about the crucial role that the post-2020 MFF has to play to upskill our youth and support our SMEs so they can rise to the challenge and stand at the frontline of the digitalisation curve. He emphasised that The European Parliament will be united in pushing for more support for SMEs and investing in the workforce. We've been pushing for structural funds, especially the European Social Fund to be used more specifically for digital literacy and [retraining for] new jobs”.

The European Commission’s DG Employment agreed that there is a huge potential in the post-2020 EU Budget to support the digitalisation of energy renovation in order to boost youth employment.

Fulvia Raffaelli from DG GROW reminded the audience that digitalisation is not an end in itself but has to be understood as a tool to reach a clear objective, in this case a highly energy efficient building stock which will boost employment, prosperity and wellbeing among EU citizens and businesses. She emphasised that “Construction has to be perceived as a process and renovation must be fully part of it”.

Renovate Italy, one of the national partners of the Campaign, was also present at the event, speaking about the direct market experience of one of its supporting companies, ‘Teicos’. It is an SME specialised in energy renovation, which is implementing an innovative business model based on digital management techniques for the construction process. It is proving to be highly attractive for young people and has helped the company to grow at a significantly faster rate than its more traditional competitors.



@youthintergroup  @RenovateEurope

Relevant documents:

Download the Poster and Agenda of the event

Download the one-page infographic on the topic: How can the Digitalisation of the EU Energy Renovation Sector boost Youth Employment?

Download the 6-page briefing on the topic: Digitalisation, Disruption and the Energy Renovation Sector

Download the PPT presentations: Joint event with the Youth Intergroup - 28th March


About Renovate Europe

Renovate Europe is a political communications campaign with the ambition to reduce the energy demand of the building stock in the EU by 80% by 2050 compared to 2005 levels through legislation and ambitious renovation programmes. This will bring the energy performance of the entire building stock in the EU to a Nearly Zero Energy (NZEB) performance level. Renovate Europe brings together 36 partners from across the building value chain (trade associations, companies, trade unions, city networks and 14 national partners). Learn more: @RenovateEurope

About the YOUTH Intergroup:

The YOUTH Intergroup is a cross-party grouping of over 120 Members of the European Parliament working together for better youth policies in Europe.