EU warns against weakening climate ambition in buildings law – EURACTIV.com


There are growing fears that the European Commission is considering relaxing a key piece of legislation that would lead to emission reductions in buildings ahead of its publication this week.

The revision of the directive on the energy performance of buildings (EPBD) must be proposed on December 14 or 15 as part of a decarbonization package aimed at aligning the European gas sector with its climate objectives.

But while many praised a draft version of the text that circulated last month, EURACTIV learned that a new draft lowered ambition, including on minimum energy performance standards and plans for energy efficiency. renovation that EU countries should create.

“It’s so watered down. It’s really not ambitious and it’s going to make our life in Parliament really difficult. It basically means we’ll have an uphill battle,” a source in the European Parliament told EURACTIV.

Refusal to renovate existing buildings

The existing buildings proved to be the most controversial element for the European Commission when drafting the new legislation.

In the leak seen last month by EURACTIV, the EU executive planned to introduce minimum energy performance standards that would require buildings sold or rented to achieve energy efficiency class E for a transaction to take place after January 2027 and class C by January 2033.

However, according to several sources, these have been criticized by the Regulatory Review Board – a group of Commission officials and external actors who verify the legality of EU law.

They feared that minimum energy performance standards violate the principle of subsidiarity – a rule set out in the EU treaty requiring decisions to be made as locally as possible.

The European Commission has not convincingly demonstrated the need to adopt measures at EU level, according to the board. At the same time, they said that the obstacles to renovation are specific to each EU country and therefore should be addressed at national level.

These reviews were echoed by Viessmann, the German manufacturer of home heating appliances. “Definitions that are too narrow risk violating the principle of subsidiarity granting member states the right, for example, to choose their own energy mix,” said Alix Chambris, vice president for global public affairs and sustainable development at Viessmann.

“A low-carbon building stock in Sweden, Germany or Spain, for example, will differ significantly in the heating technologies and energy carriers used,” Chambris told EURACTIV in comments sent via email. “Legislation, including the EPBD, must give clear direction on the speed and scale of goals but must allow different routes on how best to get there,” she said.

Despite this, the European Commission still tries to come up with minimum energy performance standards – especially for less efficient buildings – as an obligation and with a clear timetable for implementation.

However, they may now need to make the wording looser in order to pass the legislation.

According to sources following the process, the European Commission is now considering an approach that would mean that most public and residential buildings with an energy efficiency class below F would have to undergo extensive renovations by 2030 at the latest.

The year and energy class are still subject to change and it remains to be seen what the exemption criteria will be.

If the requirement to renovate anything below Class F remains, however, that means significantly different renovation levels across Europe.

“To require only the renovation of class G buildings would lead to very mixed results,” said Brook Riley, head of European affairs at Rockwool, a supplier of building materials.

“According to government data available for Belgium, Germany and Italy, this would mean renovating around a third of their buildings,” he told EURACTIV. “This is the kind of scale that is needed to tackle greenhouse gas emissions and high energy costs. But for France, for example, that would only mean renovating 7%, and for the Netherlands, 4%.

Next to that, there is the problem that energy performance certificates, which show the energy efficiency of a building, vary widely across Europe, Riley warned.

Currently, it is up to European countries to define the energy performance requirements for each class, but the new legislation may bring more harmonization, including a model for this, and shorten the lifespan of energy performance certificates to five years. .

“When we talk about a class G or A building, it must mean the same throughout the EU, otherwise it is very difficult to plan and carry out large-scale renovation programs,” he said. he declared to EURACTIV.

Renovation action plans

The European Commission is also considering introducing action plans for building renovation, which would replace unsuccessful long-term renovation strategies.

These will help EU countries plan how to align their buildings with net zero emissions by mid-century. They would include milestones for renovation and a clearer picture of the country’s building stock.

The plans were initially well received to give teeth to the EU’s failed long-term renovation strategies. But there are concerns that reporting obligations, including identifying weaknesses and solutions to renovation obstacles, have been removed in a new version.

“All the good reporting obligations they’ve imposed, so what member states are doing to phase out fossil fuels in heating and cooling – most of them are gone,” a parliamentary source told EURACTIV.

“The advantage of the Building Renovation Action Plan was that there would just be a lot of data that Member States would have to enter and that would give us a clearer picture – everything is deleted. There is now a roadmap every five years on how you decarbonize. We were shocked and worried when we saw him, ”the source said.

The Greens fight back

Amid warnings about weakening legislation, Green MEP Ciaran Cuffe wrote to the European Commission to stress the need to ensure that Europe’s building stock is in line with its climate ambition.

The revision of the EPBD is likely to fail, Cuffe warned on December 1 the legislators: “Unfortunately, I fear that the text being drawn up by the Commission is weak in its scope and in its ambition”.

In his letter to the European Commission, Cuffe underlined the need for minimum energy performance standards that cover public, residential and non-residential buildings and trigger actions “before 2030 and for all buildings, in particular those of energy classes E, F and G ”.

These poorly performing buildings often house vulnerable households, and renovation could pay off for many reasons, including costs, energy consumption and health impacts.

“Delaying the action until 2030 and covering only part of our homes or limiting ourselves to classes F and G is not enough: if we want to achieve our climate and energy goals, the EPBD holds the key to reducing our energy consumption. energy and our climate impact. in a timely manner, ”he argues.

At Viessmann, Alix Chambris agrees and insists that intermediate objectives be put in place to encourage the energy renovation of the building stock well before 2030.

“Intermediate targets are essential to create the necessary momentum and provide monitoring tools to ensure that Member States can stay on track towards decarbonising buildings,” said Chambris.

‘This could even be reinforced with a clear EU-wide interim target for 2030, for example, in line with the renovation wave target of reducing emissions from buildings in the EU by 60% by 2030 (vs 2015). “

[Edited by Frédéric Simon]

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