Adapting historic buildings ‘great challenge’ in making cities sustainable, says European Climate Commissioner

Frans Timmermans, EU executive vice president, underlined the dual importance of ramping up energy efficiency in Europe’s buildings while also preserving heritage

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European Climate Commissioner Frans Timmermans says that one of Europe’s greatest challenges in creating a sustainable future will be adapting historic buildings in ancient cities - some of which have stood for millennia.

Mr Timmermans, who is also First Vice President of the European Commission, made the remarks on Tuesday at the Dublin Climate Summit, hosted by Callaway Climate Insights.

“Most of the buildings here now will be here in 2050. That’s the advantage and disadvantage of living in Europe,” he said during the webinar which also heard from Irish Environment Minister Eamon Ryan.

The commissioner underlined the dual importance of ramping up energy efficiency in European cities but also of preserving heritage.

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Buildings generate nearly 40 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions each year, according to Architecture2030, while only 0.5-1 per cent of building stock is being renovated annually.

To meet emissions reduction goals set by the Paris Agreement will require a significant boost in energy efficiency renovations to make buildings as low carbon as possible.

Mr Timmermans told the summit that Europe’s €1.8 trillion ($2.2 tn) Covid recovery package should be used for transitioning to a greener more resilient future, which would not only have positive climate impacts but provide jobs in economies battered by the Covid-19 pandemic.

He also noted that, following the last financial collapse in 2008, too much of recovery packages were spent on boosting parts of the economy that were “not part of our economic future”.

Around 75 per cent of EU building stock is currently energy inefficient, the EU reported last year. The European Green Deal has a goal of carbon-neutrality by mid-century, and low-carbon buildings are an important piece of that plan.

The EU has issued directives to all countries within the bloc to ramp up their efforts, aiming for 32.5 per cent energy efficiency by 2030.

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