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Building energy efficiency in European cities - URBACT (2013)

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Building Energy Efficiency in European Cities - URBACT (2013)

This new URBACT report argues that for cities to play a central role in the reduction of CO2 emissions and the fight against climate change, they must seriously address the topic of Energy Efficiency in Buildings. In the report, the main challenges and opportunities regarding Energy Efficiency are highlighted, including the issues of fuel poverty and the opportunities of integrated urban strategies.

Cities can lead in the reduction of CO2 emissions and the fight against climate change. Buildings are the largest energy-consuming sector in the EU, and offer the largest cost-effective opportunity for savings. Relative to almost all other investments, energy efficiency retrofit – installing newer energy efficiency technologies in older buildings – cost-effectively creates more distributed jobs and enhances economic activity, reduces costs for businesses and households of all income levels, reduces emissions and improves energy security. However, considerable intensification in the delivery of ambitious whole-building energy efficiency upgrade programmes is needed.

The gaps between consumers’ actual investments in energy efficiency and those that appear to be in the consumer’s own interest demand new approaches to finance which incentivise energy efficiency upgrading. Far too many European households are living in fuel poverty; tackling this is not solely about saving money or reducing the impact of climate change, but has implications for health, child poverty, and educational achievement. As the European building stock is highly diverse, particularly in historic and traditional buildings, there are no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solutions.

Integrated urban strategies provide the means to tackle the various challenges faced by cities. These strategies must link together the social, environmental and economic policy dimensions, connect the various levels of responsible governance, and involve the key stakeholders in the implementation of an energy efficiency policy for each municipal building stock. The scale and extent of the radical changes required are not yet generally appreciated.

Local Action Plans
Cities are ideally placed to drive action on sustainability through local action plans. Policies of municipal authorities should comprise integrated packages of measures, including technical, institutional, policy and financial measures. Clear energy saving and emission reduction targets for European cities can be helpful in further stimulating the demand for retrofit. Real potential for reducing emissions and energy use lies in master planning sustainable zones within cities: by integrating mass retrofit in local area master plans and regeneration programmes, areas can be transformed into energy efficient low-carbon zones.

“Cities of Tomorrow: Action Today” URBACT reports
This report is part of a series of URBACT thematic reports "Cities of Tomorrow: Action Today" which consists of 7 publications, this being the most substantial output of URBACT II Capitalisation process.

Reports cover the following topics:

integrated and sustainable urban development, shrinking cities: challenges and opportunities, more jobs: better cities, supporting young people through social innovation, against divided cities in Europe, motivating mobility mindsets, and building energy efficiency in European cities.