Climate policy innovations for homeowners

By 2050, all buildings in the EU are to be climate-neutral, a goal formulated by the responsible EU Commission in the "Fit for 55" package. Among other things, the new directive will determine how the most climate-damaging buildings should be modernized first, loosely based on the motto "worst first."

The Commission requires all member countries to enforce “Minimum Energy Performance Standards,” minimum standards for building owners. Properties that are now in the worst category, G, must then be rehabilitated so that they achieve at least class F. Private owners must modernize their homes by 2030, and public buildings by 2027. The new directive affects approximately 14 percent of homes in the EU, 35 million properties.

A good third of all greenhouse gas emissions in Europe come from real estate. In Germany, for example, more buildings would be affected than in the Netherlands, partly because fossil energy is primarily used here. Around 50 percent of the heating systems in Germany are operated with natural gas, and a third still with oil. In Germany, about three million houses are affected, which are expected to be out of use in two stages starting in 2030 and 2033. Almost one third of residential buildings belong to the worst efficiency classes G or H. By comparison, class H consumes eight times more energy than class A+.

But the implementation of this directive faces major obstacles. There are not enough skilled workers available. There is a shortage of craftsmen and plant mechanics to install heat pumps. It now takes up to four months to get an appointment with specialist companies. In addition, there is a lack of young talent in construction and a glaring shortage of materials. There is not enough wood, insulation boards, special building materials and machine parts.

The bottom line is that the ambitious goals of the EU Commission could fail in the face of reality. We’ll know more in 2022.

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