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Addressing Energy Poverty in the Climate Transition: Risks and Opportunities for a Renovation Wave

On May 7, HSP held an online roundtable e-hosted by Ciaran Cuffe MEP (EFA/Greens), which brought together a range of academic speakers, policymakers, and NGO representatives to discuss how energy poverty and climate change can be addressed as joint challenges in the European Green Deal, and particularly in the upcoming Renovation Wave.

The EU Green Deal promises to make the EU carbon neutral by 2050 and to “leave no one behind”. The debate was therefore focused on how to deliver on three inter-related challenges:

  1. Access to housing: too many people in the EU struggle to access and keep decent housing. This has become one of the defining social challenges of our time as 9% of poor households in the EU live in severe housing deprivation. 40% are overburdened by housing costs. At least 700,000 people are homeless every night. This has massive knock-on effects for health and well-being. According to Eurofound, inadequate housing costs EU economies €194 billion per year.

  2. Energy efficiency of housing: too much housing in Europe is energy inefficient. Building are responsible for 40% of energy consumption and 36% of greenhouse gas emissions. Improving energy efficiency in buildings is obviously critical when it comes to reaching carbon neutrality by 2050. The task is enormous: 70% of the stock is highly inefficient.

  3. Energy poverty: too many people face energy poverty. Some 50 million households in the EU experience energy poverty. 17.9% of poor households are unable to keep their home adequately warm, compared to 7.3% of the total population.

A big question is therefore whether the Green Deal will address these challenges in an integrated way. This means targeted measures to improve the living conditions of the poorest through energy efficient renovation. It means actively avoiding unintended consequences in the form of increased housing costs for those least able to pay. It means going beyond business as usual and actively including hard to reach and vulnerable groups. The time has come to walk the walk as well as talk the talk of a socially just transition. Energy efficiency of housing is an excellent place to start because the stakes couldn’t be higher. Energy efficient renovation is a cornerstone of the Green Deal. The “renovation wave” planned by the Commission offers both risks and opportunities from the point of view of the poorly housed. Will sufficient attention and resources flow to those already being left behind when it comes to decent housing and access to energy? Will steps be taken to safeguard the right to housing of the most vulnerable?

The roundtable was kicked off with opening remarks from Ciaran Cuffe, Ruth Owen (FEANTSA) and Sorcha Edwards (Housing Europe). This was followed by two keynote presentations. Diana Ürge Vorsatz, Professor of Environmental Science and Policy at the Central European University, presented on the synergies and trade-offs between energy poverty alleviation and climate change mitigation. Katrin Grossmann, Professor of Urban and Spatial Sociology at the University of Applied Sciences, Erfurt, presented on the relationship between energy efficiency and residential segregation. Three representatives from the European Commission's Directorate-General for Energy were then invited to take the floor, followed by Marine Cornelis, Director at Next Energy Consumer EU.

The event was recorded in full and is available below, along with the speakers' presentations:

You can access Ms. Ürge-Vorsatz's presentation here; Ms. Grossmann's presentation here; and Ms. Cornelis' presentation here. The Commission Speakers present were:

-Paula Rey Garcia, DG ENERGY, Buildings and Products Unit

-Diana Barglazan, DG ENERGY, Policy and Financing Unit

-Teresa Aristegui, DG ENERGY, Retail Markets, Consumers and Local Initiatives Unit To stay up to date on our latest news and events, subscribe to our newsletter or follow us on twitter.

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