Direct emissions from the buildings sector in the EU decreased by 24% between 2005 and 2020 and accounting for around 15% of the total EU emissions. Part of the decrease was driven by home insulation and electrification of heating. Also, the increasing share of renewables in the sector, which in 2020 covered 23% of energy demand in the buildings sector, contributed to decreasing emissions.18 According to the amendment of the Renewable Energy Directive proposed by the European Commission in July 2021, the share of renewables in the buildings sector should increase to 49% by 2030.
All 1.5°C compatible pathways analysed in this project see a rapid increase in the electrification rate of the buildings sector with share of electricity in energy consumed increasing from 33% in 2017 to at least 52% in 2030, and 71% in 2050. This results mostly from electrification of heating (mostly through heat pumps) and cooking. An increasing share of electricity is set to be generated from onsite PV installations thus reducing direct CO₂ emissions from energy consumption to max 176-211 MtCO₂ in 2030 and 43-78 MtCO₂/kWh in 2040 from around 420 MtCO₂ in 2019. Buildings should reach close to full decarbonisation around between 2036 and 2048 depending on the model analysed.
1 Agora Energiewende and Ember. The European Power Sector in 2020: Up-to-Date Analysis on the Electricity Transition. Agora Energiewende and Ember. (2021).
2 European Commission. EU Climate Action Progress Report 2020. (2020).
3 IEA. Global Energy Review: CO2 Emissions in 2020. IEA (2021).
4 European Council. European Council meeting (12 December 2019) – Conclusions. (2019).
5 European Commission. A Clean Planet for all. A European long-term strategic vision for a prosperous , modern , competitive and climate neutral economy. (2018).
6 European Parliament and the Council of the European Union. Regulation (EU) 2018/1999 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 December 2018. Off. J. Eur. Union 328, 1–77 (2018).
7 Council of the European Union. EU energy efficiency rules adapted in view of Brexit. (2019).
8 European Parliament. Directive (EU) 2018/2001 of the European Parliament and of the Council on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources. Off. J. Eur. Union 2018, 82–209 (2018).
9 European Parliament. Directive (EU) 2018/410 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 14 March 2018 amending Directive 2003/87/EC to enhance cost-effective emission reductions and low-carbon investments, and Decision (EU) 2015/1814. Off. J. Eur. Union L76, 3–27 (2018).
10 EU. Regulation (EU) 2019/1242 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 June 2019 Setting CO2 emission performance standards for new heavy-duty vehicles and amending Regulations (EC) No 595/2009 and (EU) 2018/956 of the European Parliament. Off. J. Eur. Union L 198, 202–240 (2019).
11 Regulation (EU) 2019/631. Regulation (EU) 2019/631 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 April 2019 setting CO2 emission performance standards for new passenger cars and for new light commercial vehicles, and repealing Regulations (EC) No 443/2009 and (EU) No 510/201. Off. J. Eur. Union 62, 13–53 (2019).
12 European Parliament. Regulation (EU) 2018/842. Off. J. Eur. Union 2018, 26–42 (2018).
13 European Commission. Regulation (EU) 2018/841 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 30 May 2018 on the inclusion of greenhouse gas emissions and removals from land use, land use change and forestry in the 2030 climate and energy framework, and amending Regulation. Off. J. Eur. Union 19, 1–25 (2018).
14 Considering LULUCF sink projected by the Commission at 472 MtCO₂ (Scenario 1.5LIFE). Excluding LULUCF net-zero GHG would be brought twenty years later.
15 While global cost-effective pathways assessed by the IPCC Special Report 1.5°C provide useful guidance for an upper-limit of emissions trajectories for developed countries, they underestimate the feasible space for such countries to reach net zero earlier. The current generation of models tend to depend strongly on land-use sinks outside of currently developed countries and include fossil fuel use well beyond the time at which these could be phased out, compared to what is understood from bottom-up approaches. The scientific teams which provide these global pathways constantly improve the technologies represented in their models – and novel CDR technologies are now being included in new studies focused on deep mitigation scenarios meeting the Paris Agreement. A wide assessment database of these new scenarios is not yet available; thus, we rely on available scenarios which focus particularly on BECCS as a net-negative emission technology. Accordingly, we do not yet consider land-sector emissions (LULUCF) and other CDR approaches which developed countries will need to implement in order to counterbalance their remaining emissions and reach net zero GHG are not considered here due to data availability.
16 In analysed global-least cost pathways assessed by the IPCC Special Report 1.5°C, the energy sector assumes already a certain amount of carbon dioxide removal technologies, in this case bioenergy carbon capture and storage (BECCS).
17 European Commision’s Proposal for a REGULATION OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL amending Regulation (EU) 2019/631 as regards strengthening the CO2 emission performance standards for new passenger cars and new light commercial vehicles in line with the Union’s increased climate ambition.
18 EEA. Trends and projections in Europe 2021.
19 Example of steel production using green hydrogen and recent developments.
20 Own calculations based on ACEA data.
the European Unionʼs energy mix in the buildings sector
petajoule per year
- Natural gas
- Oil and e-fuels
the European Unionʼs buildings sector direct CO₂ emissions (of energy demand)
- Historical emissions
- High energy demand - Low CDR reliance
- Low energy demand
- SSP1 High CDR reliance
- SSP1 Low CDR reliance
1.5°C compatible buildings sector benchmarks
Direct CO₂ emissions and direct electrification rates from illustrative 1.5°C pathways for the European Union
Decarbonised buildings sector by
Direct CO₂ emissions
176 to 211
43 to 78
13 to 23
2036 to 2048
Relative to reference year in %
−58 to −50%
−90 to −82%
−97 to −94%
Share of electricity
53 to 54
65 to 67
71 to 81
Share of heat
8 to 11
14 to 15
16 to 20
Share of hydrogen
2 to 4
3 to 18
3 to 20