EU agreement on 2050 climate neutrality can help spur a renovation wave

(EurActiv, 5 Dec 2019) During Commission president Von der Leyen’s mandate, over 30 million buildings will need to be deeply renovated to stay on track to achieve the 2050 climate-neutrality objective. Succeeding in this will make her a true climate champion, having directly improved the quality of life of millions of EU citizens.

Most of the buildings in 2050 already exist today

Most people in the year 2050 will live in the very same buildings that we occupy today. There are over two hundred million buildings in the EU that together emit more CO2 than any other sector. Decreasing and decarbonizing the energy used to heat, cool and use these buildings is crucial for the transition to a climate-neutral Europe.

Our homes, offices and schools urgently need to be upgraded to become more energy- and carbon-efficient, as well as more comfortable, healthy and affordable, for current and future generations. Investing in building renovations helps the millions of EU citizens who are still unable to keep their homes adequately warm. Better insulated buildings can also better protect people from extreme weather events, such as heatwaves, and from cold winters.

But the speed at which buildings are renovated, to lower energy bills, create thermal comfort and reduce carbon emissions, is incredibly slow. Merely 0.2% – 0.3% of the EU buildings are deeply renovated each year. At this rate, it would take up to 500 years to reach a decarbonized and high-quality building stock in the EU.

A renovation wave across Europe

This has to change. At the EU summit on 12-13 December, Europe has a chance to show leadership and set out to become the first climate-neutral continent, for the sake of our planet, our health and our prosperity. Such a decision will help steer investments in the renovation of the existing building stock. Buildings will need to be upgraded and decarbonised in less than 30 years, instead of the current 500 years’ trajectory.

This will be a challenge, but also a huge opportunity. Accelerating renovations can create 1 million jobs in the next decade, while making better and more affordable buildings a reality for all EU citizens.

The European Commission has therefore announced it will initiate a ‘renovation wave’ as part of the European Green Deal, expected later this month. The aim should be to make building renovations more affordable, attractive and accessible to people.  Industrialised energy renovations, such as Energiesprong, can significantly lower the cost, hassle and time it takes to renovate buildings.

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EurActiv, 5 Dec 2019: EU agreement on 2050 climate neutrality can help spur a renovation wave