Negotiations Dilute EU Building law: Member States now Hold the Reins
EU legislators suggested an end for fossil heating subsidies by 2025, targets to renovate EU’s building stock, and a reduction of buildings’ carbon footprint. However, the law leaves much leeway when it comes to national implementation, jeopardising its own social and environmental goals.
A heavily watered down Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) has emerged from months of interinstitutional negotiations.
Improving EU buildings is vital for the bloc’s climate and energy goals – buildings are accountable for 40% of EU energy consumption, and 75% of which are currently energy inefficient . The law agreed upon today will set targets to reduce the environmental impacts of European buildings across the entire life. However, environmental NGOs regret that negotiators gave way to the fossil energy lobby, weakening its potential.
Reducing building’s climate impacts
In a significant leap forward, starting from 2030, governments must calculate the global warming potential (GWP) of all new EU buildings across their entire lifecycle and set national-level targets to reduce the enormous climate impact of buildings. If ambitious enough, these targets have the potential to reduce both operational and embodied carbon emissions, by fostering the uptake of low-carbon materials, renewable energy use, and project circularity.
In a setback, legislators have diluted the minimum energy performance standards for residential buildings. The revised text lets countries choose their renovation strategy, rather than focusing on lowest performance buildings and low income households in a harmonised way. Governments have fragmented the EU directive into 27 individual national renovation trajectories, further complicating EU monitoring.
Laetitia Aumont, Policy Officer at the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), said: “
Incorporating climate requirements into all aspects of new buildings, including from construction materials, is a historical move. However, governments must extend this consideration to existing buildings, prioritising the most critical homes. Ensuring renovation for households most vulnerable to energy poverty is a social and moral imperative.”
Fossil heating phase-out: “A slow start”
The new EU Directive mandates all new buildings to respect ‘Zero Emission Buildings’ (ZEB) standards by 2030, requiring high energy performance. However, the definition of ZEB is still fraught with loopholes and does not require new builds to prioritise renewable energy, leaving no guarantee that all new homes will be fossil free from 2030.
The law also nudges for a 2040 target for phasing out fossil fuel in all buildings as well as a partial end to subsidies for fossil fuel appliances from 2025. This is expected to limit the expansion of Europe’s reliance on gas boilers, a technology installed in 90 million homes that is both energy-inefficient and environmentally detrimental.
However, measures are broadly up for national interpretation and not ambitious enough to achieve the EU’s and international carbon neutrality targets .
Marco Grippa, Programme Manager at ECOS – Environmental Coalition on Standards, said: “
A target and a clear path for phasing out fossil fuel boilers was urgently needed, but it is unfortunate that the EU has set the bar so low. The important goals of the Paris Agreement and the EU’s carbon neutrality target for 2050 are at risk. EPBD has set the ball rolling towards ending the age of toxic and polluting fossil gas in European homes – but it is a very slow start with loose ends. Member States must go beyond the minimums set by this legislation at national level to speed up.”
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