According to a new report published by partnership programme Build CaRe – a European initiative which aims to make energy-efficient building design mainstream – “radically improving” the efficiency of new and existing buildings will also play a key role in reducing global greenhouse emissions.

The report, ‘Refurbishing Europe: An EU strategy for energy efficiency and climate action led by building refurbishment’, was carried out by associate consultants Bruce Tofield and Martin Ingham at the University of East Anglia (UEA) concluded that making efficiency improvements in buildings “represents the greatest opportunity for energy saving and greenhouse gas reduction”.

This, the report added is because buildings are responsible for 40% of EU GHG emissions, and as a result proposes the EU up its energy reduction demand target for 2050.

Dr Tofield said: “By making its building stock energy efficient, the EU can demonstrate that economic growth is consistent with reduced energy demand and lead the transition to a sustainable world.

“A long-term target of 40% reduction in primary energy demand would galvanise the near-term action on energy efficiency that is essential if action to tackle potentially dangerous climate change is to succeed.”

However, the findings suggest that the EU is currently only on track to achieve half of a 20% ambition of improving energy efficiency by 2020.

As a result, Dr Tofield said that while he agrees with the EU Commission’s ‘Energy Roadmap 2050’ that a big reduction in energy demand is achievable and that energy efficient buildings should become the norm, many barriers remained.

He said: “The biggest barrier is lack of political will to accelerate progress in energy efficiency.

“New build ambition is insufficient and the rate of building refurbishment to achieve high standards of energy efficiency is far too low. Political will to transform buildings will demonstrate EU leadership on climate action post-Durban. Cities across the EU can lead this change.”

As a result, CaRe is calling on the EU to “lead the way” in upgrading the energy efficiency of its building stock in order to tackle climate change and help bolster the economy.

CaRe partner Passivhuscentrum Västra Götaland passive house expert John Helmfridsson noted that energy efficiency is “becoming a main competitive advantage to countries and companies investing in the issue”, and that “not to use or further develop knowledge would be hazardous, not only to the environment but to the European economy”.

Carys Matthews

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