Saturday

23rd Jan 2021

EU seeks to renovate 35 million buildings by 2030

The European Commission unveiled on Wednesday (14 October) the EU's "renovation wave" - aimed at doubling the renovation rate of existing buildings in the next 10 years, while improving energy efficiency across the bloc to reduce associated emissions.

That means that about 35 million buildings could be renovated over the next ten years, creating more than 160,000 new jobs in the construction sector.

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"It's not easy. It's not just throwing money at it, we also need to get the right regulation in place," EU commissioner for the Green Deal, Frans Timmermans, said.

Funding will give priority to the worst-performing buildings and renovations that can reduce energy-poverty across the bloc. Currently some 34 million EU citizens are unable to adequately warm their houses.

Annually, around 800,000 social housing will need an upgrade, costing an estimated €57bn of additional funding per year that will come from coronavirus economic recovery fund.

Further funding will come from carbon market revenues, while the European Investment Bank will provide technical support for projects and tailored financial support.

However, social and environmental groups estimate that over that in fact €260bn of public investment will be needed per year.

In the EU, buildings are responsible for 40 percent of the bloc's energy consumption and 36 percent of greenhouse gas emissions - from construction, usage, renovation and demolition.

However, it is estimated that the EU needs to reduce buildings' emissions by 60 percent, their final energy consumption by 14 percent, and energy consumption for heating and cooling by 18 percent (all compared to 2015) to achieve the bloc's 55-percent emission-reduction target by 2030.

Given that 75 percent of the EU building stock is energy inefficient, the commission wants to introduce legally-binding minimum energy performance standards in 2021 to offer legal certainty for public and private owners and tenants.

Some member states have already implemented similar measures to this effect.

France, for example, adopted a ban on rent increases for poorly-performing buildings from 2021, a ban on renting them out as from 2023 and an obligation to renovate all worst-performing buildings as from 2028.

The EU executive also wants to introduce energy performance certificates which could help identify the worst-performing buildings in need of urgent reforms.

Renovating public buildings, such as administrative, educational, and healthcare facilities is also one prong of the new strategy.

The commission wants to expand existing legislation on the renovation of public buildings to all public administration levels, as current rules cover less than five percent of the total number of public buildings.

Meanwhile, one of the main challenges set out in the renovation wave proposal is the decarbonisation of heating and cooling infrastructures, which are responsible for high levels of pollution across the bloc.

Green groups have warned that the strategy falls short in addressing the need for the complete decarbonisation of the sector, calling for specific and well-defined targets aligned with the 2030 and 2050 climate targets.

"The commission still lacks a clear plan to phase out fossil fuels in our heating and cooling system, which is badly needed to reduce emissions and achieve climate neutrality by 2050," said Davide Sabbadin from the European Environmental Bureau.

Today, more than 80 percent of Europe's heating is still being generated by fossil fuels - mostly gas.

New 'European Bauhaus'

Also on Wednesday, commission president Ursula von der Leyen launched the so-called 'European Bauhaus', a co-creation space where architects, artists, students, engineers, and designers can collaborate.

From now until summer 2021 the EU executive will conduct what it calls a broad participatory co-creation process, and will then set up a network of five founding Bauhaus in 2022, in different EU countries.

"The New Bauhaus is about bringing the European Green Deal closer to people's minds and homes. And making tangible the comfort and attractiveness of sustainable living," said von der Leyen in a statement.

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