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Zero carbon housing is a key driver to reach Europe’s energy dependency

There are clear social, economic and environmental benefits of moving to zero carbon housing in Europe by 2050, says a new report by research consultancy Cambridge Econometrics that analyses the socio-economic impacts of decarbonising the residential building sector in Europe.

Europe’s economies would greatly benefit from cutting fossil fuel dependency from Russia and the analysis, commissioned by the European Climate Foundation, points out that a key driver is the deployment of greater energy efficiency measures in buildings, which reduces energy demand from the housing stock in the long term. In addition, changing heating technologies can further reduce demand for fossil fuels, cutting dependency on Russia and improving trade balances due to the increase in demand for electricity almost entirely within Europe.

“A dedicated switch to zero carbon housing alone could increase GDP by 0.7-1 per cent in Europe in 2030-2050,” said Dóra Fazekas, managing director of Cambridge Econometrics’ Budapest office. “Furthermore, Europe could cut its annual spending on gas imports by 15 billion euros in 2030 and 43 billion euros in 2050, while 1.2 million net additional jobs could be created thanks to net zero carbon housing measures by 2050.”

For consumers and homeowners, the added benefit of the switch could mean lower spending on heating – made especially important by the recent rise in energy prices – and improved air quality in cities, the report finds.

Decarbonising the building stock is a key challenge on the way to Europe becoming the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. At present, buildings account for 40 per cent of the EU’s energy consumption, which is likely to continue growing unless immediate action is taken.

Cambridge Econometrics suggested several added benefits of a transition to decarbonising the residential building sector in Europe. Such benefits include boosting economic performance and employment due to renovations – an especially important factor as the war on Ukraine has a negative effect on Europe’s economies; the lowering and minimising Europe’s dependence on fossil fuels from countries outside the bloc, especially Russia, improving trade balances; and contributing to net-zero residential heating that improves air quality across the continent and helps reach global emissions reduction goals.

“The modelling shows that the best approach is improving efficiencies leading to lower energy consumption, but it does not consider how such transitions could be brought about,” added Mrs Fazekas. “A key challenge for policymakers now is to identify which policy mechanisms could be utilised to drive transitions and in particular to drive low or no-regret outcomes such as improved energy efficiency across the EU’s residential building stock.”

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