The EU Commission’s Renovation Wave must put people first

Increasing the energy efficiency of buildings and the renovation rate in Europe is a win-win. It’s a chance to tackle poverty, create jobs, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

A blog by Ciarán Cuffe, Greens/EFA MEP, and rapporteur on the European Parliament’s report: ‘Maximising the energy efficiency of the EU Building stock’.


Millions of Europeans lack adequate housing

As a result of the lockdown, many of us have just spent an unprecedented number of weeks and months isolating in our homes. If we’ve learned anything from the coronavirus crisis, it’s that we all require and deserve a healthy and safe place to call home. Despite this, over 40 million Europeans cannot keep their home adequately warm in the winter, and 98 million Europeans cannot keep their home adequately cool in the summer. Around 7 million Europeans receive disconnection notices per year, impacting on physical and mental health, particularly in the current crisis and confinement period.

Next month, the European Commission will release its Renovation Wave strategy. This will take the form of a strategic communication that will set out a vision for the building stock in the EU, outlining the barriers, and the drivers of renovation. Currently, buildings consume around 40% of the EU’s energy and are the single largest energy consumer in Europe. They emit 36% of EU CO2 emissions. Almost 75% of the building stock is energy inefficient, while at the same time, only 0.4-1.2% of the building stock is renovated each year. 

We need a holistic approach on housing renovations

People, and in particular, those people at risk of energy poverty need to be at the heart of this strategy. Greens/EFA MEP Ciarán Cuffe is rapporteur for the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy on the report: ‘Maximising the energy efficiency of the EU Building stock’. The report outlines the best approaches Member States should consider to increase their renovation rate across Europe. The report calls for a holistic approach on renovations – one that considers local community needs and tackles issues like gentrification, as well as promotes the integration of renewable materials and a sustainably built environment. Such an approach must mean working with local communities and harnessing community know-how to make renovation a success. Too many people suffer from energy poverty. The Renovation Wave is an opportunity to reduce energy bills and tackle one of the root causes of poverty.

Increasing housing energy efficiency – a win-win for climate and jobs

Increasing the energy efficiency of buildings and the renovation rate in Europe is a win-win. When you think of the amount of jobs we can create as we recover from the impact of Covid-19 by making buildings healthier while also contributing to climate neutrality, it really is a no-brainer. The advantage of creating a new framework for the efficiency of buildings is that it will help to increase the rate and the depth of renovations. We know that 36% of the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions come from buildings, and renovated buildings will significantly reduce our emissions. The report highlights the need to stimulate local and regional economies engaged in renovation programmes, to generate local jobs and offer opportunities for upskilling, to strengthen our communities, to fight social hardship through inclusion and dedicated instruments, and to contribute to achieving our climate goals.

We’re waiting to see what plans are announced by the European Commission in the weeks ahead on how to tackle the challenge of renovating and improving the performance of Europe’s building stock. It seems clear that there will be a focus on housing as well as healthcare and education buildings. Here’s hoping that the Commission will adopt a holistic approach and harness local skills to tackle poverty, create jobs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from buildings.

About the author

Ciarán Cuffe is a Greens/EFA MEP from Ireland, and rapporteur on the European Parliament’s report: ‘Maximising the energy efficiency of the EU Building stock’.

Ciarán Cuffe MEP
Ciarán Cuffe MEP

More information:
Francesca Jenner – Social Justice Campaigner
francesca.jenner@ep.europa.eu