Lack of political ambition cripples efforts for much needed energy transition in buildings

Brussels, July 25th 2019

Last week, EU lead­ers failed to agree on much-needed 2050 cli­mate neu­tral­ity goals, with four coun­tries re­luc­tant to find con­sen­sus and ask­ing for a tai­lored as­sess­ment of each coun­try’s eco­nomic needs and over­all readi­ness be­fore pro­ceed­ing with an EU-wide agree­ment. The out­come of the Coun­cil meet­ing of the 20th June cre­ates frus­tra­tion on all fronts. Gloomy warn­ings from the In­ter­con­ti­nen­tal Panel on Cli­mate Change, now months-old, paint a land­scape of dis­as­trous con­se­quences for our en­vi­ron­ment and health - worth the grimmest post-apoc­a­lyp­tic movie, in­clud­ing the loss of en­tire species and ecosys­tems, flood­ing and droughts. As we speak, most of the coun­tries that have op­posed the agree­ment on cli­mate change are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing life-threat­en­ing heat, dri­ven by the global rise of tem­per­a­tures.

Para­dox­i­cally, as Mem­ber States strug­gled to find an agree­ment at the Coun­cil, a 3-day streak of events to stress the im­por­tance of ac­cel­er­at­ing an en­ergy tran­si­tion was tak­ing place a few steps away. Thou­sands of cit­i­zens, to­gether with gov­ern­ments and in­dus­try rep­re­sen­ta­tives have flooded the rooms of the EU Sus­tain­able En­ergy Week (EUSEW) to join hun­dreds of events fo­cus­ing on the ur­gency of tack­ling the cli­mate cri­sis, show­cas­ing an ex­tra­or­di­nary array of strate­gies and tech­nolo­gies to ac­ti­vate a much-needed mit­i­ga­tion process. Up­grad­ing our heat­ing & cool­ing in­fra­struc­ture is key to this process: 81% of our heat­ing & cool­ing is still pro­duced with non-re­new­able sources; 52% of our heat­ing and cool­ing is con­sumed within our pri­vate and pub­lic build­ings. Clean our build­ings from ob­so­lete, pol­lut­ing tech­nolo­gies (think oil and gas boil­ers), re­place them with ef­fi­cient tech­nolo­gies (think ge­ot­her­mal, bio­mass stoves and boil­ers, solar pan­els and heat pumps): con­grat­u­la­tions! You have pro­ceeded to de­car­boniz­ing about half of Eu­rope’s heat­ing and cool­ing, pre­vent­ing mil­lions of tons of CO2 from reach­ing the at­mos­phere and ag­gra­vat­ing our cli­mate cri­sis. A large EUSEW event or­ga­nized by a coali­tion of in­dus­try rep­re­sen­ta­tives, EU-funded pro­jects and the In­ter­na­tional Re­new­able En­ergy Agency, brought to­gether in­dus­try rep­re­sen­ta­tives, united under the flag of the De­carb­Heat ini­tia­tive, was held this 20thJune to call for the im­me­di­ate de­car­boniza­tion of our build­ings’ heat­ing and cool­ing as a key mea­sure to reach our 2050 goals, in­sist­ing on the pre­pared­ness of the in­dus­try on one side, the wor­ry­ing lack of po­lit­i­cal am­bi­tion on the other: “the re­cent im­passe at the Coun­cil serves as a crys­tal clear win­dow onto the real ob­sta­cles to de­car­boniza­tion: be­yond fi­nanc­ing and in­vest­ment costs, the lack of po­lit­i­cal am­bi­tion is the most dis­cour­ag­ing sign of how every­one seems to be ready for the tran­si­tion, ex­cept for some na­tional lead­ers”, said Jean-Marc Jos­sart, Sec­re­tary Gen­eral of Bioen­ergy Eu­rope, in­ter­ven­ing at the event. Rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the cities of Vi­enna and Antwerp stressed the im­por­tance of local gov­ern­ments ac­tions for de­car­boniz­ing heat­ing & cool­ing net­works and pro­vided an overview of their achieve­ments and plans, un­der­lin­ing the need to in­volve all local stake­hold­ers (com­pa­nies and cit­i­zens) to suc­ceed. EU funded pro­jects PLAN­HEAT, HOTMAPS and RE­LaTED, pre­sent at the event, offer so­lu­tions that can sup­port cities and re­gions in this di­rec­tion. Soft­ware de­vel­oped by HOTMAPS and PLAN­HEAT can as­sist cities and re­gions in their heat­ing and cool­ing plan­ning, while RE­LaTED is de­vel­op­ing an in­no­v­a­tive ul­tra-low tem­per­a­ture con­cept for ther­mal dis­trict en­ergy net­works. Such tools and so­lu­tions are part of an in­te­grated, holis­tic ap­proach to de­car­bonize the sec­tor. Paul Voss, head of Eu­ro­heat & Power, a net­work of dis­trict en­ergy or­ga­ni­za­tions and pro­fes­sion­als striv­ing for sus­tain­able heat­ing and cool­ing, sug­gests to take in­spi­ra­tion from the case of elec­tric­ity in Eu­rope: ‘‘What lessons can be learnt from the power sec­tor when it comes to de­car­boniz­ing heat­ing and cool­ing? The fact that cre­at­ing the right pol­icy pres­sure is es­sen­tial!’ All stake­hold­ers pre­sent at the event agreed on the ur­gency of de­car­boniz­ing the build­ing sec­tor. An in­te­grated ap­proach, bring­ing to­gether dif­fer­ent tech­nolo­gies and cal­i­brat­ing the con­tri­bu­tion of each ac­cord­ing to the local speci­fici­ties, while al­low­ing cit­i­zens bet­ter ac­cess to in­for­ma­tion on how to make the right in­vest­ments for them and their en­vi­ron­ment, stim­u­lat­ing fi­nanc­ing and tak­ing ad­van­tage of leg­is­la­tion on build­ing ren­o­va­tions are key to achieve de­car­boniza­tion. With­out the right po­lit­i­cal and leg­isla­tive sig­nals, how­ever, all ef­forts risk to be crip­pled – Eu­ro­peans can’t af­ford any more in­de­ci­sions.


About De­carb­Heat

Of­fi­cial pho­tos from the event

Press Contact

Nino Aveni  Se­nior Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Ad­vi­sor aveni(at)bioenergyeurope.​org