Zero carbon buildings 2050

This report highlights the importance and urgency of addressing residential buildings in achieving net-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions targets in 2050 and identifies key policy levers at the EU, national and local level and the potential of those levers to reduce GHG emissions.

The GHG emissions from the built environment consist of operational emissions from energy use for heating, cooling, hot water, cooking, lighting and appliances, as well as embedded emissions associated with materials and construction processes over the whole lifecycle of a building or energy infrastructure. 

Under current policies, annual emissions from residential buildings will decrease by only 30% by 2050. To extend and enhance existing policies, a comprehensive policy package needs to be developed and implemented by the EU and by individual member states, comprising:

  • Minimum energy performance standards for existing buildings that utilise key moments in the building’s lifetime such as sale and change of tenancy.
  • Regulatory policies on heating fuels switch and appliances, such as:
    • a cap on CO2 emissions from energy carriers for energy companies
    • local or regional heating plans to implement direct electrification of heating and district heating
    • a phasing out of fossil fuel heating systems
    • a ban on the use of fossil fuels for heating and cooking in newbuild.
  • CO2-based taxation of energy carriers for heating.
  • Lifecycle emissions requirements for construction and renovation projects, products and materials.
  • Flanking policies to facilitate the transition, including financial support to mitigate energy poverty.



Climact (modelling): Quentin Jossen, Hugues de Meulemeester

Project coordination (The European Climate Foundation): Renée Bruel, Stijn Carton, Adeline Rochet, Ting Zhang