Buildings at heart of EU’s ambitious emissions target

In her State of the Union address last week, President of the European Commission Ursual von der Leyen set an ambitious new emissions reduction target of 55 per cent of current emissions by 2030.

“Our impact assessment clearly shows that meeting this target would put the EU firmly on track for climate neutrality by 2050 and for meeting our Paris Agreement obligations,” said von der Leyen.

“And if others follow our lead, the world will be able to keep warming below 1.5°C.

“I am fully aware that many of our partners are far away from that … but for us, the 2030 target is ambitious, achievable, and beneficial for Europe.”

In comparison, Australia has set an emissions reduction target of 26–28 per cent by 2030, and the federal government has resisted the call to set a target of net zero emissions by 2050, despite states and territories committing the goal by 2050 or earlier.

During the speech, von der Leyen highlighted the role that the built environment will play in achieving the target. This includes stimulating renovation work and establishing a “new European Bauhaus” through the €750 billion Next Generation EU COVID-19 recovery package.

“Our buildings generate 40 per cent of our emissions,” said von der Leyen. “They need to become less wasteful, less expensive and more sustainable.

“And we know that the construction sector can even be turned from a carbon source into a carbon sink, if organic building materials like wood and smart technologies like AI are applied.”

“I want Next Generation EU to kickstart a European renovation wave and make our Union a leader in the circular economy.”

According to Renovate Europe, which seeks to reduce the energy demand of the EU building stock by 80 per cent by 2050, investing in deep energy-efficient renovation gives an excellent return. Every €1 invested by government in renovations can return up to €5 back to public finances, in the form of employment and subsequent spending and taxes on the income it generates.

“But this is not just an environmental or economic project,” added von der Leyen. “It needs to be a new cultural project for Europe. Every movement has its own look and feel. And we need to give our systemic change its own distinct aesthetic – to match style with sustainability.

“This is why we will set up a new European Bauhaus – a co-creation space where architects, artists, students, engineers, [and] designers work together to make that happen.”

To read the full address, click here.

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