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Policies and Instruments for Climate Change Mitigation in the Building Sector

German Environment Ministry workshop at the 11th CTI in Berlin a success

December 2010 - From 12 to 13 November 2010, the German Environment Ministry hosted the 11th Climate Technology Initiative (cti) workshop in Berlin. The cti was founded in 1999 under the umbrella of the International Energy Agency, which promotes the exchange of climate-friendly technologies.

This year, the workshop was organised by Ecofys on behalf of the German Environment Ministry. Some 58 delegates from 17 nations met for intensive expert talks, most of them representatives from relevant departments of government ministries, and from science and industry. Because the majority of participants were directly involved in policy design in the respective departments, high level discussions and exchange ensued on specific measures and instruments for use in climate change mitigation, energy efficiency, and renewable energy use in the building sector.

The presentations highlighted a broad range of opportunities and approaches in national policy, and the potential for using international cooperation mechanisms. The following are two examples of trends in national policies on climate change mitigation and energy saving in buildings.

Successes in China’s regulatory policy

Promising regulatory approaches were presented by Zhang Fulin from the Chinese Building Ministry (MOHURD). Comprehensive legislation comprising energy conservation law and numerous pieces of secondary legislations from various policy areas form the framework for ensuring compliance with ambitious standards in building construction and modernisation. The Chinese government estimates that the regulation is complied with in up to 95% of new buildings. This high degree of compliance has only been achieved in recent years. In 2009, 960 million m² of new residential space was built to modern efficiency standards. Compared with the average for the existing building stock, the carbon savings achieved are considerable. China’s approach is backed by promotion of a range of pilot and demonstration projects such as the eco-city model in Zhongxin in Tianjin Province. The Chinese government also subsidises research and development in energy efficient building materials.

Policy in Morocco

The Moroccan government focuses on policies for energy efficiency and renewable energy use. The National Programme for Energy Efficiency in Buildings, presented by Mohammed Bedai, is part of the integrative approach to water, energy and waste management in achieving sustainable urban development. Morocco, which at present imports 95% of its energy needs, plans to cover 15% of its demand with renewable energy by 2020 and to reduce its use of fossil fuels by between 12 and 15 percent.

The ambitious targets are to be met by means of a new energy strategy which includes an energy efficiency programme in the building sector. The aim of this programme, apart from developing a technical code, is to provide incentives for climate-friendly building construction and modernisation – say through the use of attractive financing models and by promoting awareness of climate change mitigation and energy efficiency.

During the workshops, it became clear that the right choice of national policy instruments depends on factors such as climate, the condition of existing building stock, cultural backgrounds, and the social situation. For example, a high price for fossil fuels is recognised as a good incentive for energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy – but without a supportive social system, a rise in what are partially subsidised energy prices cannot occur without distorting the social system and creating potential ‘energy poverty’.

The CDM and NAMAs

The second part of the workshop focused on international cooperation mechanisms, particularly the CDM and the development of Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs). Up to now, there are relatively few CDM projects in the building sector which concentrate not on the building as such, but on individual components (e.g. solar-powered hot water supply and energy-efficient lighting). Workshop participants saw great potential in this area. New methodologies are now being developed for this sector, with support from the German Environment Ministry.

Brazil could serve as a model in this regard. Santhiago de Oliveira from the Brazilian government gave a presentation on how CDM projects have been used in his country to achieve sustained improvements in energy efficiency. Some 46 percent of these projects were developed domestically to keep transactions costs down.

With programmes like Esta es tu casa (This is Your Home) and Hipoteca Verde (Green Mortgages), Mexico’s government largely focuses on the country’s low-income population. However, because funding for such programmes is limited, the government sees the new NAMAs mechanism as an opportunity to mobilise financing from abroad.