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[Luxembourg 2005 Presidency of the Council of the European Union]
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Strategies to reduce CO2 emissions in existing residential housing

Date of Speech : 09-06-2005

Place : Centre culturel de rencontre Abbaye de Neumünster

Speaker : Fernand Boden, Ministre des Classes moyennes, du Tourisme et du Logement

Policy area :

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In the name of the Luxembourg government and in my own name, I would like to welcome you to the Centre Culturel de Rencontre Neumünster [Neumünster Cultural Meeting Centre]. This former Benedictine Abbey of Neumünster is a major historical site in the City of Luxembourg and in the past centuries became a police barracks and a prison until the middle of the 1980s. It was then restored and transformed into a "Cultural Meeting Centre", thereby rediscovering in part its original spiritual function.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Under the Luxembourg Presidency, the "Environment" Council has recently adopted conclusions on climate change with a view to setting new objectives for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, to be introduced after the expiry date of the first period of the Kyoto protocol in 2012. They involve medium- and longer-term strategies, combined with objectives, for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, which have been submitted to the European Council, to be examined by the latter on a regular basis.

The "Environment" Council is asking the industrialised countries to reduce their emissions within a range of 15 to 30% by 2020 and 60 to 80% by 2050, as compared to their 1990 levels, in order to limit global warming to 2 degrees as compared with pre-industrial levels. A vital approach to achieving this is obviously to involve more countries in a post-Kyoto mechanism.

It is a known fact that the energy consumption of households in our countries fluctuates between 15 and 40% of the total energy consumption of a country. As a result, these households are the source of a significant amount of CO2 emissions.

The Ministers responsible for housing policy are, therefore, directly concerned by the new challenge to reduce carbon dioxide.

That is why the Luxembourg Presidency has included this in the theme: "Strategies to reduce CO2 emissions in existing residential buildings"

We have sent you a questionnaire on this subject, so as to ensure that this meeting is properly prepared and to provide a brief overview of the initiatives taken or scheduled to reduce CO2 emissions in the housing sector by the various Member States, so that they can achieve the objectives laid down in their national allocation plans, to become legally binding as from 2008.

Thank you for responding so rapidly. Your precious contributions have enabled us to present the main results of our survey in a summary report that each of you will receive. There is no doubt that this report will act as a springboard for interesting and fruitful discussions at this conference.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In Luxembourg, the housing sector has been faced with a swiftly growing population, mainly since the beginning of the 1980s. Growth is 1.3% per year.

Growth is mainly a result of a high migratory balance. Since the beginning of the 1980s, the growth rate of the foreign population has been 11.6 times higher than that of the indigenous population.

It goes without saying that population growth is exerting considerable pressure on housing, which is impacting heavily, not only on our CO2 emissions balance, but also on the price of land and housing.

Luxembourg is thus being forced to redefine living space. In terms of urban planning, there is a case for promoting all measures that condition ecological, economic and social aspects favourably, together with forms of housing that economise on land.

The building of new housing that consumes small amounts of energy thanks to intelligent planning must become standard. To this effect, we are counting on:

- passive use of solar energy

- energy optimisation in the volume built

- efficient heat insulation

- innovative heating systems

- controlled ventilation

- cogeneration plants

- the use of other types of regeneration energies.

But rehabilitation and construction measures in the structure of existing buildings also constitute a privileged method of facing our challenge.

Densification, the filling in of wasteland and the complementation of peripheral districts are just a few examples.

A vital chapter in our action concerns the existing housing stock. 69% of this stock comprises housing built before 1980, thus containing almost no effective insulation.

This housing stock thus offers huge potential for economising on CO2 emissions.

I must emphasise, however, that we can scarcely meet the complex demands of effective environmental protection simply by reducing CO2 emissions. We therefore have to reaffirm our determination to intensify our efforts at all levels, in order to create a high quality sustainable housing, by focusing on the choice of materials, construction technique etc., at the same time as on energy conservation.

In order to succeed in this mission, we have to address the issue of the renovation of existing buildings from all points of view, such as liveability and hygiene, to mention just two examples. From this perspective, energy consumption constitutes one important aspect amongst others, given its vital importance to the future of humanity.

There is no doubt that any other attitude would lead to the impasse from which we have just emerged, by removing our unilateral approach. And here allow me give you an example: nothing is simpler than to insulate a building, whatever its age, in such a way that energy consumption is reduced to a minimum. Such initiatives were taken after the first energy crisis at the beginning of the 1970s, when many people committed themselves to insulating their accommodation from top to bottom, often resulting in the creation of hermetic bell jars that affected the health of inhabitants. The population was not adequately informed on housing ventilation.

This was also the era when many homes were equipped with internal insulating sheets treated with products harmful to health.

The adoption of an overall approach is, therefore, a sine qua non condition for introducing an effective strategy for improving the housing stock.

From this perspective, the end of the 1990s saw the general introduction of a property record in our country.

The property record is, to some extent, an X-ray of a building. Each owner must have a "check up" of his property conducted by an expert in the field, who will inspect the accommodation in terms of health, safety, energy consumption, technique and social aspects. The expert will use a special software program to check these factors. He will then recommend steps to correct and remove any defect or nuisance detected.

Based on an in-depth analysis of the elements vital to the execution of sustainable housing, the property record is expected to give an impetus to the rational renovation of existing housing and to energy economies and to have a significant impact on the construction sector labour market.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Here are a few elements of our strategy for the renovation of our existing housing stock and for the reduction of CO2 emissions in these buildings. I wanted to share these with you at the start of this conference, for which I wish all the success that it deserves.

Once again, I would like to thank all of you for being here and for participating actively in the work of this important meeting.

This page was last modified on : 13-06-2005

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