The European Commission on Wednesday announced a series of legislative proposals aimed at addressing some of the key sources of greenhouse gas emissions across its member states, including proposed rules and regulations to decarbonize EU buildings, promote the uptake of low carbon gases, and reduce methane emissions.

According to the commission, the proposals aim to enable the EU to achieve its climate goals of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by at least 55% by 2030, and achieve climate neutrality by 2050, as envisioned under the commission’s Fit for 55 roadmap.

esg playbook

Buildings are a key source of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and also one of the hardest to replace, given their long-term nature. According to the European Commission, buildings account for 40% of the energy consumed in the EU, and for 36% of energy-related GHG emissions. 80% of household energy consumption is used for heating, cooling, and hot water.

Under the new proposals, all new buildings as of 2030 would be required to be zero-emission, which will require that they consume little energy, use renewable energy sources for power as much as possible, and have no on-site carbon emissions from fossil fuels. For the existing building stock, the commission is proposing minimum energy performance standards, with requirements for the worst performing 15% of buildings in each member state to be upgraded by 2027 for non-residential buildings, and 2030 for residential. The proposals also envision phasing out fossil fuels in heating and cooling in national buildings by 2040.

Commissioner for Energy, Kadri Simson, said:

“Buildings are the single largest energy consumer in Europe, using 40% of our energy, and creating 36% of our greenhouse gas emissions. That is because most buildings in the EU are not energy efficient and are still mostly powered by fossil fuels. We need to do something about this urgently, as over 85% of today’s buildings will still be standing in 2050, when Europe must be climate neutral. Improving our homes is also an effective response to high energy prices – the worst-performing buildings in the EU consume many times more energy as new or properly renovated ones. And it’s often the most vulnerable who live in the least efficient houses and therefore struggle to pay the bills. Renovation reduces both the energy footprint of buildings and the energy costs for households, while also boosting economic activity and job creation.”

The energy proposals are aimed at facilitating the uptake of low carbon gases such as hydrogen and biomethane, and shift the energy mix away from fossil-based natural gas. Proposals include removing or lowering tariffs in order to make it easier for renewable and low carbon gases to access the existing gas grid, and establishing a certification system for low-carbon gases in order to help enable member states to assess the GHG emissions footprint of different gases when determining their place in the energy mix. Additionally, the  package envisions enabling consumers to choose renewable and low carbon gases over fossil fuels in their own consumption, through access to price comparison tools, transparent billing information and data & smart technology.

Methane proposals in the package include requiring the oil, gas and coal sectors to measure, report and verify methane emissions, along with rules to detect and repair methane leaks, and limit venting and flaring, as well as proposed monitoring tools to ensure transparency on methane emissions from imported oil, gas and coal. 

Additionally, the European Commission launched proposals regarding the removal and storage of carbon from the atmosphere. The rules promote carbon farming initiatives, which reward farmers, foresters and other land managers for taking up improved land management practices resulting in carbon sequestration, and also focus on the development of blue carbon initiatives, such as nature-based solutions on coastal wetlands and regenerative aquaculture. The commission stated that it will propose an EU regulatory framework for the certification of carbon removals, including rules for carbon accounting and monitoring requirements by the end of 2022.

Simson said:

“We are putting on the table today three very different proposals, but they all take us closer to our ultimate goal: a green, fair and secure energy system.”