Sian Hughes – Knauf Insulation’s Director of External Affairs Europe
The election of Donald Trump as America’s 45th President may have shaken the world to its core — but just five days earlier an agreement came into force that will not only shape the world we live in but also have significant global repercussions for generations to come.
On November 4, the Paris Agreement on climate change was officially adopted bringing into force a 2015 commitment from 195 countries to limit global warming to well below 2ºC.
Now as world leaders wrap up the COP22 climate change meeting in Morocco, they must make this commitment a reality.
Fortunately, they will find the solution closer than they think. It’s what surrounds all of us most of the time — buildings.
In Europe, for instance, buildings consume 40% of the European Union’s energy and produce 36% of its greenhouse gases. A 50% reduction in building energy use would — by itself — cut total CO2 emissions in half by 2030.
Imagine the vast contribution that could be made to climate change if such an initiative was scaled up to a global level.
The aim of COP22 was to reveal the concrete action each country will take to cut emissions - acting on the promises made last year. At Knauf Insulation we believe that energy efficient buildings must be at the heart of this action.
It’s an environmental imperative.
The International Energy Agency (IEA), for example, has said that two-thirds of Europe’s low carbon energy infrastructure to 2040 has to be in energy efficiency to achieve Europe’s pledge to keep global warming below 2ºC. That translates into an eightfold increase in energy efficiency investment compared to 2013 levels.
But what does this mean in practice?
Report after report reinforces how energy efficient buildings can tackle climate change. Last month a new study by the research group Climate Action Tracker (CAT) said the building industry needs to cut emissions by 75% to 90% — below 2010 levels — by 2050 to keep warming under 1.5ºC.
To achieve this, all new buildings in OECD and non-OECD countries need to be zero-energy by 2025 with existing buildings renovated to cut energy use by 90% at an annual rate of 5% of floor space for OECD countries and 3% per year for non-OECD nations.
These are hugely ambitious plans, but at Knauf Insulation we are continually demonstrating how this can be achieved and, more importantly, showing what success looks like.
In Belgium, we have joined forces with building scientists from Leuven University to show the real performance impact of renovation in 21 homes by using sophisticated systems to monitor energy use before and after the installation of our energy saving solutions.
The project is the first of its kind using real homes occupied by real people. The research continues until the end of 2017, but already initial results in our first test house have revealed energy savings of over 50%.
Another of our research projects, this time in Hungary, was showcased in this year’s best practice report by the European Alliance to Save Energy (EU-ASE).
Two homes, comparable in size and occupancy, had their energy use measured for six months. One was thoroughly renovated with our solutions, the other in the lowest ‘Category G’ of inefficiency, was left untouched.
The house without insulation spent €835 on winter heating while the insulated house saw their energy bills cut by 46%. The insulated household spent a total of €455, adding up to a saving of €380.
Ultimately, 2016 will undoubtedly go down as a momentous year of political change, but it is vital that COP22 leaders ensure this is also a historic year of environmental change — and that means future-proofing our planet by making buildings energy efficient.