The Climate Protection Law falls far short: CSMM sees a critical need for action with subsidies for building redevelopment
Munich, 24 June 2021. The Climate Protection Law as originally adopted by the German government falls far short. The previous regulations shift high emission reduction rates to the periods after 2030. As a result, the consequences of climate change are imposed on future generations thus restricting their rights of freedom and forcing them to pay the price of radical abstinence if they wish to preserve their livelihood. The Federal Constitutional Court has therefore called upon the legislator to amend the law and to regulate the targets for the reduction of the CO2 emissions more efficiently. “We now have the opportunity to provide the urgently needed incentives to ensure that the building sector, too, makes its contribution to safeguard the future”, is the view taken by Timo Brehme, Managing Partner of the Munich-based Architecture and Consulting Firm CSMM. Hence, a stronger focus would have to be put on the building sector, which, with about one third of the annual energy consumption, makes a substantial contribution to global warming and is the only sector that exceeded the permitted annual emission quantity in 2020. The new “federal subsidies for efficient buildings” effective from 1 July 2021, which also include non-residential buildings, can be a first step in this respect: “The retrofitting and revitalisation of office and commercial properties is the key for a climate-neutral future. It is necessary for achieving success in climate protection that this area is systematically promoted with further subsidies and financial reliefs,” says Brehme.
In fact, hardly any segment has a similarly high potential for contributing to climate protection like the building sector. About 30 percent of direct and indirect emissions, nearly 40 percent of the energy consumption and even 60 percent of the waste generation in Germany can be attributed to the building sector. The absolutely essential two to three percent redevelopment rate is still far from being reached – in particular in the segment of office properties – where the current rate is only about one percent. Brehme says: “In the housing sector, the building efficiency programs have already succeeded in nearly doubling the number of applications to 600,000 last year. This demonstrates what is feasible with funding programs. However, this is not in any way sufficient. It is not even sufficient in order to achieve the CO2 emission quantities and climate neutrality formerly stipulated in the Climate Protection Law for the building sector to be achieved by 2045.” Therefore, Timo Brehme demands that further measures are implemented to facilitate revitalisation and rehabilitation of existing buildings as part of the pending immediate action program of the Federal Construction Ministry.
Solidarity with the building sector
The fundamental decision of the Federal Constitutional Court to have the Climate Protection Law amended obliges the government to actively safeguard the future of subsequent generations and to carefully deal with their livelihoods. The planned tightening of the climate targets for the time after 2030 is ambitious, but not impossible. This applies in particular if the German government imposes obligations on the building sector in terms of climate protection and sustainability. In construction practice, building planners often give priority to demolish or new-build over an ecologically more sensible preservation along with retrofitting. Here, in particular, there is enormous potential for resource-conserving savings and climate protection. Brehme says: “If adequately supported by the legislator, decisions taken by companies to either retrofit or redevelop can make an invaluable contribution to the environment and the prosperity of future generations. For this reason, further programs to promote sustainable building in the commercial and office property segments as well should not be put off any longer.”
Funding programs are indispensable
Based on the new federal subsidies for efficient buildings, CSMM proposes in addition to improve the tax framework for the preservation of existing buildings. Rehabilitation or revitalisation measures which are particularly expensive should be made more attractive to investors through financial incentives and easing of existing building regulations. Redevelopment should become markedly less expensive than demolition and new construction in order to achieve a rethinking in the sector. In addition, it is important to promote the use of renewable resources such as wood and other climate-friendly mineral building materials. Brehme and his experts also have in mind the pandemic-related aggravated situation in the inner cities: “Numerous retail buildings are meanwhile half-vacant, contributing to the abandonment of the inner cities. One of our most pressing tasks – and one which is sensible in terms of the environment – is to maintain this stock and to repurpose or use for the general public by means of extensive revitalisation measures. This is why we consider funding programs indispensable in this segment, too.”
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