20th Oct 2016

Construction sector across Europe given an eco-renovation

  • New buildings, but not ones already built, will have to maintain a carbon footprint of 'nearly zero' (Photo: EUobserver)

The building sector in Europe is now scheduled to get an energy efficiency renovation, with all new buildings after 2020 forced to reduce their carbon footprint to almost zero.

The new energy efficiency standards, which kick in two years earlier for all new public buildings, are the product of a back-room compromise on legislation reached on Tuesday (17 November) between the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers, representing EU member states.

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Making buildings energy-smart is sometimes seen by politicians as not as eye-catching a carbon reduction strategy as burying CO2 under the seabed or turning acres of cornfield into a fuel for cars. And yet the sector is responsible for a full 36 percent of the bloc's carbon emissions.

While the parliament had voted for language in the legislation that would have required a carbon footprint of zero, the member states added the word ‘nearly' to give them an out.

Homeowners selling their property and landlords renting it out will also have to state in sale or rental ads how energy efficient a building or flat is by 2012.

Greens in the chamber felt that the result was a clear victory, however "difficult" the year-long legislative process had been.

"The EU has laid the foundation for the buildings of the future," said Luxembourgish Green MEP Claude Turmes, commenting on the deal.

"The latest construction technologies and insulation, with the remaining energy made up from solar and biomass generation," he continued. "This will spark a green revolution along every link of the chain from architects to construction companies and for every new building, from private home to shopping centre."

Their main concern was that the strategy was restricted to just all new buildings and that no plan was devised for refurbishing what has already been built. Existing structures account for 40 percent of Europe's energy consumption.

As the economic crisis hit, Greens and some on the left argued that a Green New Deal was needed to sustainably pull Europe out of recession. An ambitious EU building renovation programme to go beyond basic measures and convert inefficient structures into very low energy buildings held pride of place in the eco-Keynesian scheme.

Greens were unsuccessful in winning such a commitment as it would have depended on new monies from the EU budget.

Mr Turmes blamed the EU's newer member states for the opposition to such moves and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso for failing to allocate any sums to building energy efficiency in the European recovery package.

"The EU is failing to capitalise on a golden opportunity to create millions of jobs, reduce dependency on energy from beyond its borders and tackle climate change."

Energy commissioner Andris Piebalgs however cheered the result, noting that when implemented, it would save European families around €300 a year.

He added that the agreement was "key to achieving EU climate and energy objectives for 2020, namely the [20%] reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and ... 20 percent of energy savings."


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