Energy Efficiency
Climate Change

The importance of the EU’s green aid package in achieving a carbon neutral Europe

Mirella Vitale
Mirella Vitale
October 2, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic is the biggest crisis we have seen since 2008’s financial crisis. Although the virus is still turning the world as we know it upside-down, we cannot forget the ever-threatening climate crisis.

The financial crisis of 2008 was an eye opener for most of us. Laws, financial projections, and our habits changed drastically and with little warning. Almost just as quickly, life returned to what we were used to. By 2010, CO2 emissions were already at the same level as before the financial crisis – even though they had fallen by as much as eight percent during that period.

In addition to the human and economic costs, one of the most significant impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the drastic drop in CO2 emissions. If the trend from the 2008 financial crisis repeats itself, then the pandemic could end up damaging far more than it has already done. With the figures from the financial crisis fresh in our memory, we now have a unique opportunity to ensure that history does not repeat itself.

Reaching a CO2-neutral Europe by 2050

In an attempt to recover economically in the wake of COVID-19, European governments risk downgrading the green momentum in the process. That is why the EU's green aid package is an incredibly important springboard for accelerating both the creation of new jobs and the green transition. And this is absolutely crucial in order to achieve the goal of a CO2-neutral Europe by 2050.

To reach our goal, it is important that we remember the buildings that we live and work in. Representing a total value of 150 billion euros, they are more than bricks, wood and roof tiles. In the EU, buildings are also one of the largest sources of CO2 emissions, with more than one-third of all emissions coming from buildings, primarily from heating. It is mega-challenges like this that the new EU budget must address. Today, approximately 75 percent of the EU building stock is energy inefficient, meaning that a large part of the energy we use is wasted.

Renovating existing building stock to become energy efficent

According to the UN Climate Panel, if we think in terms of renovating existing buildings in Europe, we could reduce the energy that buildings use by more than 50 percent. This means that energy renovation of existing buildings is a vital place to start if we are to take the necessary leap towards CO2 neutrality. To stay on track with the Paris Agreement and reach CO2 neutrality by 2050, we need to reduce European emissions by up to 55 percent – and this was confirmed by President von der Leyen’s ‘State of the Union’ speech in Brussels in September. It might be ambitious, but it can be done.

To reach our goal, the EU member states need to allocate the funds and packages made available by the EU green deal for the renovation of buildings –  as well as offering repayment or loan schemes for energy renovation for both private and public investors. In other words, we need to do far more than simply switch to energy-saving light bulbs. And we also need to bear in mind that a saved kW will always be greener than one produced – even if it is produced by renewable energy sources. When it comes to the EU's housing stock, we need to dig deeper to really make a difference.


A similar article was published on in Danish. Click here to check it out.

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