EU Parliament votes for zero-emission buildings by 2030

The European Parliament has given its final green light to the Directive on energy performance in buildings. The agreement will then be ratified by national governments and will come into force with publication in the Official Journal. The goal is to achieve a completely decarbonized building stock by 2050

In a landmark decision, the European Parliament has voted to enforce zero-emission standards for all new buildings by 2030, with the goal of achieving a highly efficient, decarbonized building stock by 2050. This move is part of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD), which saw 370 votes in favor, 199 against, and 46 abstentions. Opposition came primarily from members of the ECR group, including Italy’s Brothers of Italy, and the Identity and Democracy group, which includes Italy’s League party led by Matteo Salvini.

Scope of the so-called “green houses directive”

The directive aims to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption in the building sector by 2030, paving the way for climate neutrality by 2050. It represents a crucial step toward addressing the environmental challenges posed by the existing building stock, much of which predates modern energy efficiency standards.

The scenario

With 85% of EU buildings constructed before 2000 and 75% demonstrating poor energy performance, the European Commission highlights the urgent need for renovations to enhance energy efficiency.

This initiative is essential for achieving zero emissions and a fully decarbonized property portfolio by the mid-century mark.

What changes with the new green house directive

The revised directive will increase renovation rates, especially for buildings with the poorest energy performance in each member state. It will also promote better air quality, the digitalization of building energy systems, and the development of sustainable mobility infrastructure.

Acknowledging differences in building heritage, geography, and climate across EU countries, the directive allows national governments to tailor renovation measures to their specific contexts. Certain categories of buildings, including historic properties and vacation homes, may be exempt from these rules.

Central to the revised directive is the facilitation of targeted financing for building sector investments, complementing other EU instruments and addressing energy poverty by supporting vulnerable consumers. Member states are required to protect tenants through measures such as rental assistance or caps on rent increases.

To align building standards with the EU’s enhanced climate ambitions under the European Green Deal, the directive aims for a 60% reduction in building sector emissions by 2030 compared to 2015, ultimately achieving climate neutrality by 2050.

Specific mandates include:

  • Zero emissions for all new buildings from 2030, and for new public authority buildings from 2028.
  • new buildings occupied or owned by public authorities will have to be zero-emission from 2028
  • Member states must ensure residential buildings reduce primary energy use by at least 16% by 2030, and 20-22% by 2035.
  • A requirement for member states to renovate 16% of the worst-performing non-residential buildings by 2030, and 26% by 2033, establishing minimum energy performance standards.
  • If feasible, member states must install solar energy systems in public and non-residential buildings, as well as all new residential buildings, by 2030.
  • Binding measures must be outlined by member states to decarbonize heating systems, phasing out fossil fuels by 2040.
  • From 2025, subsidies for standalone fossil fuel boilers will be discontinued.
  • The directive excludes agricultural and historic buildings, with member states given the discretion to also exempt buildings of special architectural or historical significance, temporary structures, churches, and places of worship.
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