Better together: collaborative practices pave the way for decarbonising buildings

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Decarbonising our buildings is not just a technical challenge; owing to the multiple climate, economic and social benefits that it could bring, it is a societal imperative. While decarbonising buildings is urgent, the energy transition is complex in all its facets. Its challenges cut across multiple sectors, highlighting the need for collaboration across industries and communities.

The latest briefing by Cool Heating Coalition member E3G, ‘Unpacking collaborative practices to deliver decarbonisation in buildings’, showcases effective collaborative strategies for decarbonising buildings across the EU. Focusing on skills, finance and local delivery, the publication details successful models and initiatives and set out recommendations for local governments, and private sector and civil society organisations to help realise the full potential of collaborative approaches in delivering the energy transition.

Highlighting the imperative of skill development, the briefing showcases pioneering programmes like FEEBAT in France and Building Changes in the Netherlands, which aim to reskill and upskill professionals in the building sector through public-private partnerships and support for SMEs to pursue tailored training programmes. It also sheds light on innovative financing mechanisms such as crowdfunding for a citizen-led energy cooperative in Croatia and blended finance schemes for renovation in Lithuania, crucial for driving the energy transition in buildings.

Also in focus is the pivotal role of local authorities in spearheading climate action, with examples from Leuven, Belgium, and Kraków, Poland, coordinating effective collaboration across groups of up to 600 stakeholders. By encouraging citizens’ participation in their vision-building process and active participation in learning communities, both cities committed to a novel approach to governance on their road to climate neutrality.

Such transformative initiatives can often be frustrated by more than just technical challenges or skills gaps. Political backlash, as seen in the right-wing opposition to heat pumps in Germany, can also delay the energy transition. Crucially, the briefing emphasises how collaboration serves as a shield against political risks:

“Political risks are rooted in an ‘us v. them’ rhetoric. Deep collaboration rises above it as it actively embraces and integrates multiple perspectives into a cohesive pathway for collective action. As such, it stands as a shield against backlash. Far more, because it offers a potent way to unite diverse voices in pioneering new paths, deep collaboration effectively lights up the transition journey,” says Roxana Dela Fiamor, senior researcher at E3G.

As we navigate the urgent need to decarbonise heating and cooling (H&C) as part of the energy transition, collaborative practices emerge as a powerful tool to tackle challenges within the sector. Upskilling workers, implementing H&C plans, increasing funding and providing social and technical assistance are just some of the challenges identified by the coalition.

E3G researcher Flaminia Bonanni says, “As shown by the briefing’s real-life examples, collaborative approaches can facilitate the upskilling of workers for the decarbonisation of buildings, incentivise the creation of innovative financing mechanisms and involve local authorities in delivering the transition – in short, collaboration supports the building blocks of an effective heating and cooling decarbonisation strategy.” Read the full briefing here.

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