European Commission unveils vision of climate neutral Europe by 2050
On November 28, the European Commission released a Communication outlining their strategic long-term vision for a climate neutral economy by 2050. The strategy covers nearly all EU policies and is in line with the Paris Agreement objective to keep temperature increase to well below 2°C, and pursue efforts to keep it to 1.5°C. It sets out eight scenarios for member states to cut warming gases – two of these would see Europe become climate neutral, an option preferred by the Commission.
The strategy states that the road to a net-zero greenhouse gas economy should be based on joint action along a set of seven main strategic building blocks. The first building block cited is the need to ‘Maximise the benefits from Energy Efficiency including zero emission buildings’ and outlines a number of options to tackle the contribution of buildings in decarbonising to net-zero by 2050, including:
- Better building insulation and other measures to improve the housing stock on a much higher scale than today, reducing energy use for heating
- More efficient products and appliances
- Deployment of “smart” buildings/appliances management systems
Recognising that 80% of the 2050 building stock exists today, the Commission call for an integrated and consistent approach across all relevant policies and mobilisations of all actors for the modernisation of the built environment.
The strategy also cites another key building block as “A competitive EU industry and the circular economy as a key enabler to reduce greenhouse gas emissions”. This states that re-use and recycling will improve competitiveness, create business opportunities and jobs, and require less energy, in turn reducing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Further, new materials will play an important role, either via rediscovery of traditional uses such as wood in construction, or new composites replacing energy-intensive materials.
The European Commission is now inviting the European Council, the European Parliament, the Committee of the Regions and the Economic and Social Committee to consider the EU vision for a climate neutral Europe by 2050. In order to prepare EU Heads of State and Government for shaping the Future of Europe at the European Council on 9 May 2019 in Sibiu, ministers in all relevant Council formations will hold extensive policy debates on the contribution of their respective policy areas to the overall vision.
In parallel, in the first half of 2019, the European Commission will take the debate to all EU Member States. National Parliaments, business, non-governmental organisations, cities, and communities, as well as citizens at large. This EU-wide informed debate should allow the EU to adopt and submit an ambitious strategy to the UNFCCC by early 2020 as requested under the Paris Agreement.
Further, Member States will submit to the European Commission, by the end of 2018, their draft National Climate and Energy Plans, which are key to achieving the 2030 climate and energy targets.
Much more detailed information can be found here.
On 12 December, over 20 countries from the World Green Building Council’s Europe Network, (WorldGBC Europe) signed an open letter urging the European Commission to recognise the vital role of the built environment sector in delivering a climate neutral Europe. The letter was released as European Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy, Miguel Arias Cañete, outlined the European Commission’s vision for a climate neutral Europe at COP24 in Poland.
Representing over 4,500 diverse members of the construction and real estate sector across Europe, the network of Green Building Councils and partners assert that the 2050 long-term strategy must recognise the unparalleled potential of the sector in delivering a climate neutral Europe and meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement.
In the letter, WorldGBC Europe urges the European Commission to work with countries, cities, companies, and citizens to deliver renovation strategies that create the political and consumer support needed for the climate transition.
The letter further states that a net zero emissions economy is not possible unless the 2050 strategy addresses the total life-cycle emissions and wider impacts of buildings, in addition to operational emissions.
Between 3-14 December, James Drinkwater, (Director, WorldGBC Europe), Christine Lemaitre (Chair, WorldGBC Europe) and Alicja Kuczera (Vice Chair, WorldGBC Europe) attended the COP24 climate talks in Katowice, Poland.
Representing WorldGBC, they gave speeches at the Global Alliance for Building and Construction event on NDCs, Human Settlements Day, World Climate Summit and EU and Nordic Pavillion events, reminding leaders to recognise the vital role of the buildings and construction sector in delivering on the ambition to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. WorldGBC also ran a panel on addressing embodied carbon in the building sector with representatives from the European Commission, France and China.
During COP24, the GlobalABC published the 2018 Global Status Report. The report calls for scaled-up ambition to decarbonise the built environment, highlighting how dramatic action from governments, cities, and business is needed if the global buildings and construction sector is to cut its carbon footprint in line with international agreements. Read the report here.
To see a list of COP24 events where WorldGBC and members participated, click here.
In December, the technical expert group on sustainable finance set up by the European Commission launched a consultation on an EU-wide classification system – or taxonomy – for environmentally sustainable economic activities. This follows on from the Commission’s legislative proposal on an EU taxonomy in May 2018.
In the first instance the taxonomy will focus on 6 objectives, Climate change mitigation; Climate change adaptation; sustainable use and protection of water and marine resources; transition to a circular economy, waste prevention and recycling; pollution prevention and control and protection of healthy ecosystems. In order to be classified as ‘sustainable’, the economic activity must meet a high bar for one of the above, but also not do ‘significant harm’ to any of the other 5 objectives.
The taxonomy will be quite granular and definitions will be set for different types of economic activity. With regard to buildings, the Commission is inviting feedback on metrics and thresholds for both new and renovated buildings (see sections 13). Encouragingly, the Commission also demonstrate a willingness to explore a metric for the lifecycle of a building (ie the emissions associated with the extraction and processing of natural resources to manufacturing, transport and product delivery).
The taxonomy will predominantly be used by financial market participants when labelling products as ‘green’ or ‘sustainable’, from mortgages sold to retail customers to bonds sold on the capital markets. It, therefore, has the potential to have a significant impact on the future financing of green buildings as well as a whole range of other green investments.
This consultation should help the technical expert group to engage with a broad range of stakeholders and experts and will close on 22 February 2019. More information available here.
A report by the Global Carbon Project launched at COP24 in Katowice, Poland states that global carbon emissions will jump to a record high in 2018. Globally, it is expected that fossil fuel use will result in 2.7 per cent more CO2 in 2018 compared with 2017. Last year, such emissions contributed 9.9 gigatons of carbon. 2018 marks the second year in a row that emissions have risen substantially, after a lull from 2014 to 2016.
The rise is attributed to the growing number of cars on the roads and a resurgence in coal use. Almost all countries are contributing to the rise, with emissions in China up 4.7%, in the US by 2.5% and in India by 6.3% in 2018. Emissions in the EU are near flat after a decade of strong falls.
However, the report’s authors said the emissions trend can still be turned around by 2020 if cuts are made in transport, industry and farming emissions.
For further information, please click here
An open consultation is running until the 24 January 2019 on a product policy framework for the circular economy, with a section dedicated to the environmental footprint. This forms part of a series of consultations the European Commission has launched to explore how the product environmental footprint and organisation environmental footprint methods can be used in European policies.
These methods were tested between 2013-18 as a common way of measuring environmental performance and the Commission are now exploring how to use these results to understand how these methods can be integrated into policies.
The consultations documents can be found here
The draft results benchmark the national policy frameworks and expenditure on innovation procurement. Of particular relevance to the construction sector, is indicator 4 in the study which explores the extent to which innovation procurement is recognised as a strategic priority in policy frameworks and action plans in the construction sector.The consultation is open until 15 January 2019. Consultees are encouraged to provide feedback on country profiles and to share examples of good practice.
The link to the consultation and the country profiles can be found here
On 22 November, the European Commission published a communication providing an overview of the European standardisation system. The EU has harmonised standards in a range of areas such as chemicals, construction products, cosmetics, toy safety, medical devices, and packaging.
The aim of the communication is to respond to stakeholder demands and ensure that the European standardisation system meets the challenges of rapidly evolving technological developments, economic trends and growth models. The communication outlines four key actions to enhance efficiency, transparency and certainty on harmonised standards:
- Eliminate, as rapidly as possible, the remaining backlog of harmonised standards that are not yet published in the Official Journal of the European Union;
- Streamline internal decision-making processes, in particular, the decision of publishing the references to harmonised standards in the Official Journal;
- Elaborate a guidance document on practical aspects of implementing the Standardisation Regulation;
- Reinforce, on an on-going basis, the system of consultants to support swift and robust assessments of harmonised standards and timely publication in the Official Journal.
The action plan was released in conjunction with the Communication on the Single Market and the Communication on a better investment environment in Europe, which aims to identify the remaining barriers and opportunities for a fully functioning Single Market.
Guide to implementing the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) published
EuroACE outlines twelve key recommendations to facilitate the robust implementation of the amended EPBD that will enable Member States to realise significant multiple economic, social and environmental benefits.
With regard to long-term national renovation strategies, the document states that Member States must bind the required milestones for 2030 and 2040 into their long-term renovation strategies and to benchmark progress against these and against the measurable progress indicators that will reflect national conditions.
The document contains further recommendations in areas including financing energy renovation, building renovation passports, and smart buildings. Further information can be found here.In addition to the above, a recently circulated draft guidance document from the commission on the implementation of long-term national renovation strategies makes several references to the BUILD UPON project. BUILD UPON involved 13 Green Building Councils working collaboratively with governments, businesses, NGOs and households to help design and implement national renovation strategies
The draft guidance from the Commission references the tools developed by the BUILD UPON project as a helpful way of framing a long-term renovation strategy. Further information will be circulated once this draft is finalised.