Photo credit: © Bjorn Holland / Getty Images / WWF
The message is crystal clear: it is time to act. The Earth system is becoming unstable under the pressures of climate change and mass extinction of species. As our lives are built on nature, also the well-being of humans is at risk.There’s no time to lose. Every single month is crucial for implementing true changes on the ground. Reversing the current, disastrous trajectory requires strong action from all sectors of the society. This, of course, includes the real estate and construction sectors. The clean energy transition spearheaded by wind and solar technologies is underway with increasing momentum. As the clean electricity revolution is picking up speed many other tricky questions remain. How do we keep ourselves warm in the Northern climates when we are locked into systems that are based on burning extensive amounts of matter? This is simply not an option for us anymore. We have to get rid of fossil fuels, but at the same time we must keep in mind that the availability of bioenergy is minimal if unsustainable biomass streams are excluded. This is why we must focus not only on renewable energy, but also on energy efficiency. After all, in life cycle emissions, negawatts often outperform megawatts. The future low-carbon energy system can be described as the equivalent of a ‘Swiss army knife’; – we will need a palette of tools from renewable energy production to demand side reduction. However, it is widely recognized that one of the sharpest knives to cut the energy consumption is to turn our eye on energy efficiency of buildings. It is estimated that buildings consume 40% of energy and produce 36% of CO2 emissions within the EU 1 . Improving energy efficiency of buildings clearly plays an important role in reaching the objectives of the Paris Agreement. According to the Finnish Climate Change Panel, energy consumption in Finland could be reduced by 21–33% by the year 2050 through improving energy efficiency of buildings and by introducing low-carbon solutions in new construction 2 . The most significant energy saving potential lies in energy efficiency renovations of the existing building stock. These renovations are important because it is estimated that 70% of the current building stock still exist in 2050. However, at present, the energy efficiency investments are not happening at the pace and scale needed. The largest players of the real estate sector must step up to overcome the challenge. The institutional investors and real estate companies must go way beyond the business-as-usual level of energy efficiency improvements guided by the existing legislation. First and foremost, we need to ask what is adequate in light of the pressing urgency informed by the climate science. The current situation offers innovative entrepreneurs and investors the perfect opportunity to step in and accelerate the pace of change!