Renovation
Climate Change
Sustainability

Total transformation of building renovation needs to start now

Oliver Rapf
Oliver Rapf
16 December 2020

To achieve the 2030 climate target it will require energy efficient buildings with focus on renewable energy for heating and cooling buildings.

Case Study, Intelligent Quarters

Five years ago in late 2015, the world met in Paris and pledged a commitment to get serious about climate change. Four years later – after a year full of protest from millions of students and parents, marching for the climate every Friday – a new European Commission entered the stage and set a new tone. The new Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, branded herself as a climate activist, announcing a European “Green Deal” would be the cornerstone of her presidency. The Green Deal was a clear and welcome response to the demands of civil society, but we all couldn’t help but wonder if it would deliver. Was it simply a means to pacify an increasingly restless and frustrated population? 

Not long after the introduction of the EU Green Deal, the pandemic came and took center stage. By March 2020, the European Commission admitted that the Green Deal was delayed. In the face of the corona crisis, priorities needed be reshuffled and new challenges, such as working from home, slowed down the legislative process.

However, the following month, the European Commission announced its Recovery and Resilience Plan. This included the call for a Renovation Wave in the buildings sector as a key component to build Europe’s economy back better than it was before – to ensure an economic recovery that prioritised the health and well-being of citizens while keeping Europe on the path to climate-neutrality. The Renovation Wave, finally revealed on October 14th, sets the framework to instigate real change in 2021. And now the EU’s 27 Member States have unanimously agreed on a higher 2030 climate target – to reduce emissions by 55 percent –  one year to the day that Von der Leyen announced her EU Green Deal. Now is the time to get serious action under way.

Achieving our new 2030 target will require nothing short of total transformation in this decade. As we argue in our recent analysis, highly energy efficient buildings are a key component to reaching climate goals, and Europe needs to reach at least 3 percent of the annual deep renovation to achieve  60 percent CO2 reduction in buildings to stay in line with the new target. According to BPIE’s  “Responsible Policy” scenario, we can reduce energy consumption in buildings by a quarter within just ten years. Energy efficiency will have to be a driver towards our climate goals. Their achievement will be supported by an increasing share of renewable energy for heating and cooling of buildings, delivering more than half of the required energy in 2030.

The Renovation Wave provides a well-defined framework towards achieving our goals, and the 2030 target tells us in no uncertain terms just how ambitious we should expect to be. The ongoing revision of the Ecodesign and Energy Labelling rules for space and water heaters, and the expected revision of the Energy Efficiency Directive, the Renewable Energy Directive and the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive in 2021 offer a pivotal opportunity to implement ambitious policies that would rapidly accelerate the decarbonisation of the building stock, including the introduction of minimum energy performance standards, improving energy performance certificates, implementing better financial incentives that reward a fuel switch towards cleaner and renewables-based technologies, and better alignment of legislation and requirements between efficiency and renewable energy measures in the building sector. EU Member States have a unique opportunity to leverage financial support provided by the Recovery and Resilience Facility and the EU’s multi-annual budget from 2021 to 2027 to push innovative technical solutions and service models into the mass renovation market.

2020 was challenging in many ways, and as far as the pandemic is concerned, we are not yet out of the woods. Much uncertainty lies ahead. However, what this year has taught us for certain is that our collective will to put the climate at the forefront of our priorities is stronger than ever.

We will need to hold to this resolve relentlessly in the coming months and years; our 2030 mandate requires a complete overhaul of current renovation practices. Our targets are within reach so far as our determination remains steadfast.

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