European Union

Making policy for climate’s sake

Europe is the land where climate policy has been explicit. Seeking to lead the world in terms of climate mitigation policy, it has integrated policy across many, varied states, and its nations have developed and implemented ambitious policies of their own. The challenge in Europe is to continue providing leadership in the face of an economic crisis, while accounting for national differences in outlook and policy.


These graphs show the changes in emissions, emissions drivers, and policy in the Buildings sector in the EU


Emissions Building emissions in the EU27

Emissions associated with direct fuel combustion in the buildings sector fell, but were offset by a shift from direct to indirect emissions due to a rise in electricity consumption.


    Emissions Drivers Impacts of drivers on residential emissions

    Population increase and smaller households- which led to more buildings and total floorspace —increased residential emissions. However, these factors were more than offset by increases in energy efficiency and renewable energy and a shift to electricity from other fuel sources.


      Policy EU policy towards referigerating appliances

      The increasing strictness of labeling standards for refrigerators, introduced in 1995 and updated regularly, demonstrated how EU efficiency standards ratcheted up over the last several years. The efficiency of the worst permissible label now exceeds the top category from 1995.

        • Energy policies emphasized building sector energy efficiency in the 1990s. Europe also harmonized energy efficiency labeling for appliances. Building sector efficiency steadily improved, leading to modest declines in direct greenhouse gas emissions from the sector. However, growing electricity consumption in the sector, partially driven by increasing appliance use, more than offset declining emissions, particularly in commercial buildings.

          • Policy Barriers

            • Shift in EU-wide policy targeting buildings in 1990s
              EU-wide climate and energy strategies were introduced, but had limited reach as compared to national policies
              End-use issues became an integral part of energy policies: buildings sector recognized for significant potential for energy effciency improvement
            • THERMIE Programme (1989) to support energy innovation
              Supported demonstration projects across EU, including energy effciency technologies for building sector
            • SAVE Directive (93/76/EEC)
              Required Member States to introduce a range of policies to encourage energy effciency in buildings
            • Boiler Efficiency Directive (92/42/EEC)
              Established minimum efficiency requirements with rated output for water boilers fired by liquid or gaseous fuels
            • Energy Labeling Directive 92/75/EEC and subsidiary directives established harmonized energy efficiency labeling of household appliances
          • Underlying changes

            • Moderate EU-wide population growth and growth in number of households
            • Steady growth in electricity consumption in buildings sector, especially in commercial and public buildings (ODYSSEE-MURE 2009)
            • Heating fuels shifted from coal and oil toward lower carbon gas and biomass (EEA 2011)
            • Improved efficiency of building shells, space heating units, and appliances
            • IT build-out and increased use of electronics and appliances across commercial and residential buildings
        • Energy performance standards in building codes and for products and appliances grew in importance in EU policy over the decade. Direct emissions continued to decline, partly offset by climbing electricity demand from appliances and electronics use. Electricity emissions offset direct emissions by the end of the decade, but overall emissions began to decline.

          • Policy Barriers

            • Increasing role of EU-wide policy targeting buildings in 2000s
              A set of EU-wide framework directives introduced to address diffierent segments of building energy consumption
              Trickle-down elect to regional and municipal policy
            • Energy end-use efficiency and Energy Service Directive (2006/32/EC)
              Required Member States to realize 9% energy savings—largely in buildings and industry—from 2008 to 2016
              Required the Member States to draw up National Energy Effciency Action Plans on how they meet this target
              Uptick in required implementation of performance standards
              Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (2002/91/EC) required Member States to introduce energy effciency building codes and energy performance certificates for buildings
              Eco-design Directive (2005/32/EC; 2009/125/EC) required improving environmental performance of energy related products and energy effciency performance standards for products
              2000/55/EC set energy effciency requirements for fluorescent lighting ballasts
          • Underlying changes

            • Moderate EU-wide population growth and growth in number of households
            • Continued growth in electricity consumption in building sector, especially in commercial and public buildings (ODYSSEE-MURE 2009)
            • Effciency of building shells, space heating units, and appliances continued to improve
            • Growing IT-build out and household electronics and appliance uptake