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Worldwide renovation will help rebuild the global economy

By Eline Lhoest
June 25, 2020

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has called for a world-wide energy efficient renovation of buildings as part of a US$3 trillion recovery plan to rebuild the global economy.

The three-year investment is the foundation of the IEA’s newly launched Sustainable Recovery Plan which also calls for the increased deployment of low-carbon energy sources, widespread clean transport such as electric cars, more energy efficient industries and investment technological innovation.

The IEA says the plan — drawn up with the International Monetary Fund — would lead to global GDP being 3.5% higher in 2023 than it would have been otherwise; save or create around nine million jobs a year over the next three years and save 4.5 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases annually.

Renovation plays a vital role in the recovery plan. Almost 10% of the global workforce is involved in construction, manufacturing related to buildings and more than 25 million jobs across the sector have been lost or at risk in 2020, says the IEA.

Buildings produce 30% of world’s emissions

“Investment in energy efficiency in buildings is expected to fall by nearly 15% in 2020 from around US$150 billion in 2019 and with buildings accounting for more than 30% of global energy use today and 30% of emissions, investment needs to accelerate significantly if the world is to meet its sustainable development goals,” says the IEA.

The launch of the plan will undoubtedly be a major talking point as Europe gathers for Sustainable Energy Week in Brussels this week — an international platform for sharing ideas on energy efficiency and decarbonisation.

Siân Hughes, Knauf Insulation’s Director of External Affairs, said: “As a company and as a partner of several campaigns we have been advocating for renovation to be put at the heart of the post-pandemic recovery.


Renovation creates better buildings for the most vulnerable in society, it creates much-needed jobs and tackles emissions. It is a win-win on every level, so we welcome this recovery plan by the IEA and hope that policy makers around the world transform its ambition into action.
Siân Hughes - Knauf Insulation’s Director of External Affairs

Renovation will create new jobs

The IEA estimates that between nine and 30 new jobs would be created in the construction sector for every million dollars invested in energy efficient renovation.

“Targeting support to social housing and government buildings in the first instance could kick-start efficiency improvement works, creating a pipeline of projects for the industry,” says the IEA. “Investment in building energy efficiency would reduce energy bills, reduce energy poverty, improve health and comfort and improve resilience in the face of climate events and price shocks.”

The IEA also highlights the importance of significantly increasing annual renovation rates from around 1% and carrying out deep renovation measures including double glazing and insulation installation as well as installing heat pumps and digital energy management systems.

‘A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity’

Among the IEA’s policy proposals are incentives for renovation improvements; a focus on those impacted hardest by the crisis such as low-income houses as well as public buildings such as schools and social housing; guarantees to energy service companies to invest in renovation and the acceleration of national efficiency programmes.

Launching the recovery plan, IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said: “Governments have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reboot their economies and bring a wave of new employment opportunities while accelerating the shift to a cleaner energy future.

“Policy makers are making huge consequential decisions in a very short space of time. Our plan provides them with rigorous analysis and clear advice on how to tackle today’s major economic, energy and climate challenges. The plan is not intended to tell governments what they must do. It seeks to show them what they can do.”

Click here to read the IEA’s recovery plan in full.