Brussels, 11 Mar 2004
On 10 March, a Decision of the European Parliament and Council came into force, making all targets and requirements under the 1997 Kyoto protocol legally binding in all EU Member States.
Under the terms of the international agreement, the EU has pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by eight per cent below 1990 levels within the first 'commitment period' covering 2008 to 2012. The most common greenhouse gas released as a result of human activities and contributing to global warming is carbon dioxide (CO2).
European Commissioner for the Environment, Margot Wallström, welcomed the Decision, saying: 'Now we have adopted all the necessary EU legislation to carry out our commitments under the Kyoto protocol. As a strong bloc of soon-to-be 25 countries, the European Union has a special responsibility to show global leadership and pave the way for other countries to follow suit.'
On 4 March, however, new data published by ECOFYS, one of Europe's leading research institutes on energy efficiency, pointed to measures that could significantly improve the impact of EU legislation designed to reduce CO2 emissions.
The European Directive on the energy performances of buildings (EPB) came into force in December 2002, and targets improvements in insulation, heating and cooling systems and energy generation systems as a means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Energy use in buildings and the building sector accounts for over 40 per cent of Europe's CO2 emissions, more than all forms of transport combined.
Under the current scope of the EPB Directive, all new buildings must meet strict requirements on energy efficiency, as well as existing buildings larger than 1,000 square meters that undergo significant renovation. According to the ECOFYS report, in its current form the Directive 'will have a significant impact on the CO2 emissions of the European building stock.'
Indeed, ECOFYS estimates that by 2010, CO2 emissions from buildings within the current 15 Member States will have been reduced by 34 megatonnes (Mt) per annum thanks to EPB. However, the report argues that if the scope of the Directive was extended to cover all renovated buildings, including single dwellings, CO2 emissions could be reduced by more than twice this amount in the same time span.
This is due to the fact that the main source of CO2 emissions from buildings is the residential sector, contributing 77 per cent of the total. Within this sector, single family homes, which are rarely as large as 1,000 square metres, are responsible for 60 per cent of emissions.
Therefore, ECOFYS concludes that as 'there is likely to be considerable pressure on the EU building sector to contribute to the EU climate targets beyond what will be achieved by means of the current EPB Directive [...], legislators on the EU and national level are [...] advised to take accelerated actions to tap the very significant emission reduction potentials available in the EU building stock,' notably, by including all renovated buildings in the EPB Directive.
The ECOFYS report was produced on behalf of EURIMA, the European Insulation Manufacturers Association and EuroACE, the European Alliance of Companies for Energy Efficiency in Buildings.
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