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11.05.2022 · Chun Xia-Bauer, Faidra Filippidou, Wolfgang Obergassel

First Sectoral Conversation on Buildings on 10 December 2021


The buildings sector is responsible for 36% of global final energy consumption and 37% of energy-related CO2 emissions (source). Energy demand from the construction and operation of buildings continues to rise, driven by rapid growth in global building floor area combined with improved access to energy in developing countries. As a result, this leads to greater ownership and use of energy-consuming devices. In developed nations, the focus lies on the energy renovation of buildings and policies that accelerate the sector’s decarbonisation.

“Sectoral Conversations” are a central element of NDC ASPECTS to co-create robust research results together with experts and stakeholders (more details). The Sectoral Conversation on buildings aims to:

  • integrate different types of knowledge and perspectives to improve building decarbonisation modelling for the EU 27;
  • identify a specific highly relevant topic and conduct a comparative study on this topic across different countries, e.g. the EU, China, and India;
  • compare roadmaps (physical, institutional, political) for the decarbonisation of buildings across different countries, e.g. the EU, China, and India.

In the first part of the Sectoral Conversation on 10 December 2021, the first morning session involved an exchange on key issues in the building sector among experts from the EU, China, and India, in order to identify topics that are relevant for all three countries. Common issues include:

  • prioritising the energy efficiency of new and retrofitted buildings, in particular for reducing heating and cooling demand;
  • sector coupling solutions, in particular, electrification of heating;
  • accounting for the embodied energy of buildings.

The participants ultimately chose sector coupling as a topic for a deep dive at the next sectoral conversation, with energy efficiency coming second.

In the second part of the morning session, the most recent studies on roadmaps in the EU, China, and India were presented by participants from the three countries. Participants discussed possible ways of comparing these roadmaps, ranging from the ambition of sectoral targets and policy and technology options for mitigation to enabling conditions and governance. The NDC ASPECTS project consortium will take these inputs into account and work on national pathways, which will further be discussed during the second Conversation in 2022.

The third part of the morning session focused on the potential of global governance to promote the decarbonisation of buildings. International institutions can promote decarbonisation by providing guidance and signals on what direction to take, agreeing on specific rules and standards, encouraging transparency and accountability, offering financial and technological support and capacity building, and promoting the creation and diffusion of knowledge and learning.

In the afternoon session, participants discussed current priorities of the EU agenda for buildings, such as the reform of the EU ETS, which is set to expand to cover the building and transport sectors from 2025 onwards. Dr. Stefan Thomas from the Wuppertal Institute gave a presentation on the current ETS in Germany. It was followed by a discussion on the use of revenues to fund climate mitigation actions, social concerns (for low-income building households and tenants in rental houses), the timing of introducing ETS, and its impacts on sustainable heating.

Participants also dived into technologies for sustainable heating and cooling. Key questions were:

  • Which heating and cooling technologies are sustainable and can play a role in the decarbonisation of buildings?
  • Is electrification of heat the only way? What other solutions are available?
  • What are the issues to be taken into account regarding sector coupling?

Mr. Thomas Nowak (European Heat Pump Association) focused on heat pumps and presented their potential to drive buildings’ deep decarbonisation. Electrification of heating plays an important role in all decarbonisation scenarios that the EC considers. Yet, its impacts on peak demand need to be further investigated. Also, deep renovation is key to maximise the potential of the electrification of heat.


Chun Xia-Bauer is a Senior Researcher in the Research Unit Energy Policy at the Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment, Energy (profile page).

Faidra Filippidou is Energy Efficiency Researcher at E3 modelling (profile page).

Wolfgang Obergassel is Co-Head of Research Unit Global Climate Governance at the Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment, Energy (profile page).

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