Columnists: Rod Janssen, Independent consultant

Published on: 14 Sep 2009

To the point: The countdown to approving the buildings Directive recast

Discussions on the recast of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) have been going on for a year – having started well in advance of the adoption the Commission’s proposal last November.  Where are we now?

The European Parliament called for quite an ambitious expansion and strengthening of the initial proposal.  It wanted more ambition on harmonising methodologies, on promoting low energy buildings comprehensively, on finding mechanisms for financing the work, and for taking holistic approaches to building renovations.  It wanted to make sure that Member States took the recast seriously and gave serious attention to effective implementation.  The recast proposal was put front and centre in the climate change debate because of the potential impact.

Council discussions are now in full swing. However, Member States are divided. There is a group that worries about being too straightjacketed by rigid harmonisation requirements, by rigid dates for doing this or that, by not having the flexibility to find “national” solutions.  So, they find a way to argue over minor details, forgetting, it appears, to look at the whole picture.  There are some reasons for this.  Many Member States are still reeling from the difficulty of implementing the current Directive but a couple of stellar countries have shown that it is possible to implement well and effectively.  And few Member States have yet demonstrated any strong grassroots support in their own countries to take a more progressive stance.

And why isn’t there more visible local support?  For one thing, the recast proposal and the original EPBD seem not to have caught the imagination of many local climate change advocates.  Few of them seem to have the capability or resources to analyse the intricacies of the many technical articles.  Few seem to understand how important the buildings sector is to meeting climate change targets, even in this year leading up to Copenhagen.  And even fewer understand that good intentions do not lead to results:  it is fundamental that implementation be done with commitment and effectiveness. The recast endeavours to set forth measures to improve implementation.

There is growing NGO support at the EU level but what is needed is more support at the local, regional and national level.

And in the Member State administrations, the Directive is often caught in the midst of administrative purgatory:  one ministry (normally the one responsible for environment) is often strongly for it, while the ministry responsible for energy can go either way and the ministry or agency responsible for building codes can often resist having European directives poking into what they guard as their own territory.

There are cries about subsidiarity, about administrative burden and the like.  There are questions about why this should be a European issue at all.  Yet, the current Directive showed that Member States can work together to solve common problems at the EU level.  The building sector, consuming 40 % of EU energy consumption, cannot be ignored.  The cost-effective potential is too high, the results are needed for both our energy and climate change objectives.

Yet, keep in mind that this potential will only be realised as a result of EU-wide coordinated policies. While international negotiators are trying to set a climate change infrastructure for the post 2012 era, it would be terrible if the buildings sector were shunted aside, as something too complex and too burdensome.  What it is not is too expensive.  While up-front financing may be a problem, study after study shows that serious renovations of our existing building stock and construction of new efficient buildings are cost-effective for us as individuals and for our societies. (For updated information, please visit our EPBD recast page ).

eceee has been playing an important role, following the approval process and providing timely briefings on technical issues.  But, there is a need for all of us to find a way to reach decision-makers at all levels to realise the greater energy and environmental (climate change) implications.

Have you decided what role you can play to ensure that you as well as your politicians and decision-makers are updated and aware of the importance of this piece of legislation now being negotiated in Brussels?

The views expressed in this column are those of the columnist and do not necessarily reflect the views of eceee or any of its members.

Other columns by Rod Janssen

Oct 2016

Apr 2016

Nov 2011