WorldGBC demands strict EU rules on buildings’ emissions

A coalition of 35 built environment stakeholder groups, led by the World Green Building Council and representing over 5,000 organisations in the building industry, is calling on European politicians to seize a “once-in-a-generation opportunity” to eliminate carbon emissions from Europe’s building stock.

Cristina Gamboa, CEO, WorldGBC

Currently EU policy only addresses the operational emissions of buildings, but to support total decarbonisation of EU building stock, policy must evolve to cover both operational and embodied emissions, known as whole life carbon. Without addressing both sources of emissions, the coalition argues, it is inconceivable that the EU will be able to achieve its climate targets.

The EU’s buildings currently account for 40% of energy consumption and 36% of CO2 emissions. 

The Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption in the sector by 2030 and to make all EU buildings climate neutral by 2050.

This February members of the European Parliament’s Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) voted overwhelmingly (by 49 votes to 18) to revise the directive in order to increase the rate of renovations of energy-inefficient buildings and improve information on energy performance.

According to the revised text, all new buildings should be zero-emissions from 2028, rather than 2030 as proposed by the EU Commission, while new buildings occupied, owned or operated by public authorities from 2026, instead of 2027. Residential buildings undergoing major renovations have until 2032 to comply.

The revisions are “a step in the right direction”, said the World Green Building Council (WorldGBC), that has demanded changes such as minimum performance standards, harmonisation of energy performance certificates and the reporting of both operational and embodied emissions.

This, the coalition argued, would result in a more sustainable future for all EU citizens with climate benefits, less energy poverty and the creation of up to 3.3 million “green jobs” every year.

“We are witnessing a clear consensus,” said Cristina Gamboa, CEO, WorldGBC. “Europe’s building sector is ready for a truly ambitious revision of the EPBD. Buildings are a key agent of change as Europe undergoes the transition to a decarbonised society. Politicians must seize the opportunity to support the transition away from inefficient practices, increase the EU’s autonomy and provide energy security for the most vulnerable households.”

There is increasing political and industry support for whole life carbon policy for the building sector, she said: WorldGBC launched the EU Whole Life Carbon Roadmap in 2022 with the support of 35 industry organisations and, in addition, ten Green Building Councils across Europe have developed national whole life carbon roadmaps with input from over 600 experts.

The EU directive will be debated in March at plenary session of the European Parliament and is expected to be adopted before the summer.