Energy efficiency targets for a healthy climate, clean air and healthy housing
To: EU Energy Ministers
Dear Minister of Energy,
On 25 April the Danish EU Presidency hosted a scientific conference on health, environment and climate change in Copenhagen. The event reflected the synergies between climate action and disease prevention and gave an important signal to ongoing negotiations on the Energy Efficiency Directive (EED).
At present rates of progress, the EU will miss its target to reduce energy consumption by 20% by 2020 by at least half. This would mean missing out on a great many direct and indirect health-related co-benefits, linked to improved air quality and reduced fuel poverty.
The EED provides a vital opportunity to close the gap to the 20% target, but must be made considerably more ambitious than the Council currently foresees. In particular, it must include binding national targets and clear requirements for deep renovation of buildings, as well as appropriate mechanisms to help deliver and finance these.
Cold homes are an important cause of respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, affecting children and senior citizens the most.  The EU must greatly improve the energy efficiency of its houses – but existing EU legislation is insufficient to ensure this happens. A 3% annual renovation target for all public buildings, as proposed by the European Commission in the EED, would help to stimulate the market for building renovation. So too would clear national roadmaps for deep renovation of a country’s building stock by 2050, with interim targets and financing proposals.
At the same time, health considerations must be paramount when improving the energy efficiency of buildings. From a healthy buildings perspective, the EED should therefore include requirements on the ventilation of buildings, as well as encourage the use of low-emission insulation, construction and other material. Indoor air quality can become worse if ventilation in insulated houses is insufficient, leading for example to an increase in mould.
If made in the right way, energy efficiency improvements can be a win-win for both consumers’ bank accounts, and their health. Many households all over Europe still spend more than 10% of their income on heating, which makes them prone to insufficient heating and the health implications of cold homes. The World Health Organization report on Housing  published as part of the series Health in the green economy gives a detailed analysis of the health co-benefits that could be made and how to close the health equity gap in the building sector. The total savings foreseen by the Energy Efficiency Directive across different sectors will also lower fossil fuel consumption. Less combustion of fossil fuels through energy efficiency improvements will in the end improve air quality. According to a report by Health and Environment Alliance together with Health Care Without Harm Europe , the simultaneous air quality improvements from reducing greenhouse gas emissions through measures such as energy efficiency are worth billions in terms of avoided health costs. If the EU were to move from a 20% target in 2020 to a 30% target, up to Euro 7.9 billion could be saved annually.
The 20% energy efficiency target is key for substantial reductions in European greenhouse gas emissions. The analysis of the European Commission in the draft communication on the 2050 Low Carbon Roadmap clearly states that 25% of greenhouse gas reductions could be achieved by 2020 if the 20% energy efficiency target was fulfilled. We urge you to take these health considerations into account in your negotiations with the European Parliament in order to reach an agreement which will benefit both people’s health and the planet.
Genon K. Jensen
 Marmot Review Team (2011): The Health Impacts of Cold Homes and Fuel Poverty. http://www.instituteofhealthequity....
 World Health Organization (2011): Health co-benefits of climate change mitigation – Housing sector. http://www.who.int/hia/green_econom...
 Health and Environment Alliance & Health Care Without Harm Europe (2010): Acting NOW for better health. A 30% reduction target for Eu climate policy. http://www.env-health.org/IMG/pdf/H...
Last updated on 4 June 2012