Energy efficiency in housing in most UNECE countries is far from ideal. In general, the existing infrastructure providing energy services is outmoded and inefficient; the majority of new buildings are constructed with inappropriate technologies; and the housing stock is not being adequately renovated. The general public’s awareness of daily energy use patterns is low and there are also institutional barriers preventing the widespread adoption of green technologies in housing.
Buildings are responsible for over one third of total energy consumption in the UNECE region, much of which occurs in the residential sector. Consequently, buildings are the ultimate source of a considerable portion of green house gas (GHG) emissions. The sector uses far more energy than it needs to provide comfort and services. In other words, it is wasteful.
At the same time, the residential sector could generate one of the highest energy savings in comparison to other sectors. Data from the International Panel on Climate Change, for instance, indicates a global potential to reduce by 29% the projected baseline emissions from the residential and commercial sectors by 2020 through cost-effective energy-efficient technologies (Green homes, towards energy efficient housing in the UNECE region, 2009, p. 13).
To address the challenges of improving energy efficiency in the housing sector, the UNECE has published an Action Plan for Energy Efficient Housing in the UNECE Region. The overall aim is to establish the necessary institutional conditions to improve housing energy efficiency through institutional, technological and cultural change. For instance, for energy efficiency standards in buildings, the Action Plan proposes to enact mandatory standards, which can stimulate far greater improvements than voluntary ones. At present, however, voluntary codes predominate in spite of the fact that they have failed to work effectively.
For financing energy-efficient investments, the Action Plan proposes developing a transparent system of subsidies, grants, loans, public investment programmes and leasing. Such instruments should be targeted at stakeholders, including owners, tenants, builders, technology producers and retailers.
The Action Plan also highlights the need to create an “energy aware” culture that will help energy-conscious behaviour become the norm among the general public.
Finally, the Action Plan emphasizes that coordination and leadership among government authorities is fundamental. A specific tool to facilitate this coordination can be regional and local energy planning, of which housing must be an integral part.
The implementation of the Action Plan will help UNECE member States to progressively move towards a low-energy housing sector.
As a unique pan-European forum for promoting sustainable development and facilitating economic cooperation in the region, the UNECE is well placed to assist its member States in achieving the goals contained in the Action Plan.
To download the Action Plan, please access the following link: http://live.unece.org/fileadmin/DAM/hlm/documents/Publications/action.plan.eehousing.pdf
For further information and to request hardcopies of the Action Plan, please contact:
Economic Affairs Officer
Trade and Sustainable Land Management Division
Tel.: 41 (0) 22 917 3663
United Nations Economic Commission for Europe
Palais des Nations,
CH-1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland
Tel.: +41 (0) 22 917 44 44
Fax: +41 (0) 22 917 05 05
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