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EU policymakers approve deal to decarbonise Europe’s buildings

12 March 2024


Today, the European Parliament voted to approve an update to the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD), in a crucial step towards accelerating climate action on buildings.

The successful vote means that the European Parliament and the EU Council have both now approved the agreement text from December 2023, which comes at the end of a long process of negotiation since the European Commission’s first EPBD proposal in 2021.

Over that time, WorldGBC and our Europe Regional Network (ERN) of Green Building Councils (GBCs) and partners have been campaigning as part of the #BuildingLife project for an EPBD which tackles the Whole Life Carbon (WLC) impact of buildings.


Driving energy efficiency improvements and WLC reporting

The new EPBD text will introduce a number of measures designed to drive emissions reductions across the full life-cycle of Europe’s buildings:

  • Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS): In 2030 the energy performance of all non-residential buildings must be above the level of the 16% worst performing and by 2033 above the level of the 26% worst performing. At the same time, Member States will need to ensure that the average energy consumption of the residential building stock decreases by at least 16% by 2030 and at least between 2022% by 2035.
  • New Zero Emission Building (ZEB) standard: From 2030, all new buildings will need to comply with a maximum threshold for energy demand set at the national level, and will not be able to cause any on-site carbon emissions from fossil fuels.
  • Fossil Fuel Phase-out: From 2025, Member States will have to stop subsidising “standalone” fossil heating systems, with the end goal of completely phasing out fossil fuel boilers by 2040.
  • WLC reporting: From 2030, WLC reporting will be required for all new buildings. In addition, by the start of 2027, Member States will need to publish a roadmap detailing the introduction of WLC limit values for all new buildings and set targets from 2030.


Our network’s contribution

The inclusion of WLC measures in the new EPBD arrives following three years of work by GBCs as part of #BuildingLife, who have consulted with the construction industry and national policymakers on the development of 12 national decarbonisation roadmaps (see our analysis of these roadmaps here).

In parallel, WorldGBC launched an EU WLC Roadmap with the support of industry associations representing the breadth of the construction value chain, as well as the endorsement of senior political figures such as Ciaran Cuffe, Member of European Parliament (MEP) and Rapporteur for the EPBD revision.

These discussions have contributed to placing WLC firmly on the political agenda in many countries across Europe. Specifically:

  • The Spanish government invited GBC España to draft a roadmap to implement WLC reporting in the Spanish building code.
  • Irish GBC has built cross-party support for WLC policies in Ireland and gave evidence from their WLC roadmap at a parliamentary hearing.
  • GBC Italia’s discussions with the Italian government contributed to the introduction of WLC reporting into Green Public Procurement criteria.
  • UKGBC presented their WLC roadmap to civil servants after the government debated a proposal for WLC to be introduced into building regulations.
  • At the EU level, WorldGBC and the ERN developed a policy briefing on Whole Life Carbon reporting and target setting which was widely discussed in the European Commission.


What’s next

With the EPBD finalised, attention across Europe will now turn towards ensuring that Member States implement it as promptly and effectively as possible.

WorldGBC will be working with our network of GBCs on the development of resources to help governments put into action the more complex elements of the EPBD, such as MEPS and WLC measures. To support this, we will draw on case studies for countries where such measures are already in place, such as France, the Netherlands and Denmark.


WorldGBC’s reaction to the EPBD


“WorldGBC and our network welcomes these new policy measures to drive the decarbonisation of Europe’s buildings.

We support the introduction of Minimum Energy Performance Standards and renovation targets, as well as measures to encourage the phase-out of fossil fuel heating systems. Renovation is a clear area where the EU can make significant emissions reductions towards its climate targets. Combined with the geopolitical context of a greater need for energy security as well as the enormous economic and job creation potential of renovation, this should be a clear priority for policymakers.

We are also pleased to see the introduction of a Zero Emission Building standard for all new buildings from 2030, though governments and industry would benefit from a more clearly worded definition to ensure consistency in the implementation of this provision.

The EPBD’s ambitious measures on Whole Life Carbon are especially pleasing in light of the fact that this hadn’t been widely discussed until relatively recently. We encourage the European Commission to commit to a harmonised methodology for WLC reporting across the EU to ensure maximum comparability. In addition, the industry would benefit from the release of the long-awaited Commission WLC roadmap to bring greater clarity to the EU’s long-term vision for reducing embodied and operational carbon in the built environment.

The focus should now be on implementing this legislation as effectively as possible, and WorldGBC, GBCs and partners look forward to working with national and EU policymakers on putting the EPBD into practice and securing a sustainable built environment at the heart of Europe’s future.”