27 February 2019

How the building sector can contribute to a climate-neutral Europe

The building sector is responsible for 40 percent of energy consumption, as well as greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the EU. As such, the decarbonisation potential within this sector is great.

Energy efficiency, including zero-emissions buildings, is one of the pathways the EU strategy for a climate-neutral Europe lists as a way to achieve net-zero GHG emissions by 2050.

ICLEI Europe is currently involved in two EU Horizon 2020 projects dealing with the deep renovation of buildings.

EU strategy for a climate-neutral Europe by 2050

In October 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a Special Report reconfirming the urgent need for raising ambition to reduce the impact of global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

Ahead of COP24, held in Katowice (Poland) in December 2018, the EU, responsible for 10 percent of GHG emissions globally and considered as a world global leader in climate action, revealed its proposal for a long-term vision for a prosperous, modern, competitive and climate neutral economy by 2050.

This strategy presents Europe’s vision of how net-zero greenhouse gas emissions could be achieved by 2050. It identifies challenges, but also emphasises opportunities for the European economy and its citizens, while at the same time aiming to achieve the Paris Agreement objectives.

Pathways for a transition to a net-zero economy

A set of pathways is assessed in the strategy, based on both new and already existing solutions. Some of the proposed technologies and actions would achieve an emission reduction of around 80 percent compared to 1990 levels.

Other scenarios combine several low-carbon technology options and even include the positive impact of circular economy or lifestyle changes. They could contribute to reaching net GHG reductions of 90 percent, up to achieving a net-zero GHG economy.

Reaching this goal will require joint action in several priority areas, including energy efficiency through zero-emission buildings; renewable energy; clean, safe and connected mobility; as well as circular economy.

Why buildings matter

Climate-neutrality is a state in which all actions, including those of individuals, organisations, cities or states result in net-zero climate impact. When it comes to the buildings sector, the EU strategy acknowledges the importance of energy-efficiency measures and their application to renovation.

It is emphasised that a higher number of renovations needs to be achieved, with a majority of homes using renewable heating, smart building management systems and improved materials. The technology for zero-emission buildings is already available.

However, it is necessary to deploy adequate financial instruments, for both publicly and privately owned buildings, and to equip all actors involved with the right skills.

ICLEI Europe’s involvement

ICLEI Europe is participating in two EU H2020 projects which aim to activate the market for the deep renovation of buildings: Abracadabra and TripleA-reno.

Abracadabra is the acronym of the project’s strategy: Assistant Buildings’ addition to Retrofit, Adopt, Cure And Develop the Actual Buildings up to zeRo energy, Activating a market for deep renovation.

It is based on the assumption that non-energy-related benefits play a key role in buildings renovation. The project tested whether the value of real estate can be increased by adding assistant building units with integrated renewables, in the form of side or facade additions, rooftop extensions or even an entire building construction.

Closely following 10 case studies, Abracadabra managed to prove that such add-on building elements can reduce the payback period for renovation and add value to the building.

On the other hand, TripleA-reno, or Attractive, Acceptable and Affordable deep renovation by a consumer-oriented and performance evidence-based approach, is trying to provide people who would like to renovate their house with attractive, understandable and personalised information.

The TripleA-reno open gamified platform will be designed to make decision-making simpler by facilitating the renovation process through all its phases: design, construction and use. This will be done by adding gamification elements that further engage the users.

In addition, the platform will contain a training application, where all actors involved in the renovation can upgrade their knowledge and skills to meet the needs of the market.

While Abracadabra will soon come to an end, TripleA-reno continues until 2021. It will hopefully contribute in a concrete way to the EU’s goal of reaching a climate-neutral economy.

For more information and to learn more about ICLEI’s energy projects, click here.