BRUSSELS – EU plans to renovate millions of buildings as part of the battle against climate change are facing stiff political resistance as the legislation nears the final stretch of negotiations.
He proposal — one of the last pending laws from the bloc’s Fit for 55 climate package — sets mandatory renovation targets aimed at fully decarbonizing the EU’s housing stock by 2050.
These objectives have caused a stir in several EU countries; Europe has a large number of old buildings that do not meet modern standards and there are fears that people will be forced to pay for expensive renovations during a cost of living crisis. Proponents of the proposal respond that it will lead to long-term cost savings for property owners.
The reaction comes as EU countries and the European Parliament head into final negotiations on the legislation starting Tuesday. is part of a broader reaction against the objectives of the EU Green Deal.
Italy is one of the staunchest opponents of the proposed law; The far-right government of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has complained would force homeowners to modernize around 60 percent of the country’s housing stock. Silvio Berlusconi, leader of the co-ruling Forza Italia party, has brand the file “a disaster.”
Diplomats from three EU countries where the legislation has faced strong domestic opposition said they expect negotiations to be difficult.
The dossier is “crazy and out of reach for most” EU countries, said one of the diplomats, who was granted anonymity to speak candidly. Parliament’s proposal is “detached from reality,” they added.
Greens MEP Ciarán Cuffe, Parliament’s chief negotiator on the file, said he has “no illusions” about the difficulty of reaching a deal with EU capitals, but blamed “political punctuation and misinformation.” ” for much of the setback.
Close to home
Italy is far from alone in its criticism of the EU’s push for mandatory renewal targets.
after parliament agreed his position In March, German Justice Minister Marco Buschmann called The MEPs’ amendments constitute a “hard-to-justify intrusion into property rights,” while the country’s construction minister ruled out forcing renovations on individual homes.
Polish government spokesman Piotr Müller saying Warsaw would oppose a measure that it described as “a demonstration of the hyperactivity of some officials in Brussels.”
Czech Homeowners Association called It is the “megalomaniacal vision of climate activists.”
The problem with the file is that “it affects private citizens” and “very valuable” property rights, said the second national diplomat.
Much of the criticism stems from misunderstandings and “populist” media outlets spreading misinformation about the dossier, said Hélène Sibileau, an analyst at the Buildings Performance Institute Europe (BPIE) think tank, who also blames part of the outcry. policy to broader Euroscepticism.
Parliament’s position on the file is “quite flexible” and takes into account internal differences, Cuffe insisted. It allows EU countries to exempt up to 22 percent of residential buildings from renovations, among other measures, and make further exemptions for low-income consumers if renovations are not “economically viable.”
A steep climb
Inflation is making renovations even more challenging for both consumers and governments.
Improving the energy efficiency of single-family homes usually falls into three categories, said BPIE’s Sibileau: insulation is the most expensive, costing around €40,000, followed by changes to the heating supply, which cost around €10,000, and energy management systems that cost less than euros. 150.
The European Insulation Manufacturers Association lobby estimates that implementing the legislation would require approximately doubling investments in renovations to €250 billion per year until 2030.
Still, available EU funds, combined with cost savings from phasing out fossil fuel-based heating systems, could reduce that figure to less than €200 billion, the lobby said. isolation.
Banks are “ready” to help and close the gap, including with new products such as attractive loans and green mortgage schemes, according to Marine Lelux, financial analyst at ING, as long as EU negotiators agree clear rules for the entire bloc. . “There is increasing interest in investigating how we might achieve this,” she said.
Parliament’s version of the proposal could save 47 billion cubic meters of gas each year, according to a study by consulting firm Guidehouse, commissioned by insulation manufacturer Rockwool and shared with POLITICO. That could mean annual cost savings of more than €20 billion, based on average gas prices in the first five months of this year.
Beyond costs and political resistance, the EU will face a number of problems as it seeks to implement the new rules.
Depending on the details of the final legislation, between 17 and 22 percent of EU buildings will have to be renovated by 2033, that is, up to 46 million buildings, according to Rockwool.
For that to happen, the block’s construction sector needs to add at least another 10 percent of workers in the next decade, Rockwool estimates show. This is a challenge because 15 EU countries reported a shortfall of construction workers last year.
Countries will also have to overcome divided ownership issues, as renovating high-rise buildings may require the consent of many residents, said BPIE’s Sibileau.
Then there’s the difficult task of protecting low-income homeowners who can’t afford renovations from being pushed deeper into poverty, said Emmanuelle Causse, head of the International Homeowners Union.
Ahead of Tuesday’s negotiations, Cuffe, Parliament’s chief negotiator, insisted that, despite the challenges, improving energy efficiency should be a no-brainer, not only in terms of emissions reductions but also for the country’s energy security. block.
“The evidence would show that if we improve our building stock, we will need less gas from Russia,” he said. “So I guess we just have to keep repeating this until we’re blue in the face.”