EUROPE - The European Commission has launched a strategy to tackle what it sees as insufficient investment in energy-efficient buildings.

In what is effectively a job-creation action plan for the European construction sector, the Commission will target outcomes including the stimulation of "favourable investment conditions", especially for the refurbishment of existing buildings.

Industry and entrepreneurship commissioner Antonio Tajani described low-energy buildings as "safe and viable" assets for public and private-sector investors.

In a document accompanying the announcement, the Commission identified loan guarantees and project bonds issued by the European Investment Bank, which are intended to provide €4.5bn for infrastructure pilot projects, as potential stimuli. It will also encourage national incentives such as reduced VAT rates for green buildings.

"New technologies offer major potential, not only for new houses, but also for renovating millions of existing buildings to make them highly energy efficient in line with the EU 2020 objectives," said Talani in a statement.

The Commission has set targets for a 20% reduction in emissions, 20% increase in the use of renewable energies and a 20% improvement in energy efficiency by 2020. However, Talani admitted to slow progress in efforts to improve energy efficiency and to integrate renewable energy sources in the renovation of existing buildings.

This week's announcement is the earliest stage of what is likely to be a lengthy process. The next step will be for a forum comprising member state and sector representatives to offer recommendations on necessary adjustments and additional initiatives.

The initiative will also encourage member states to recognise each other sustainability standards with a view to exporting standards outside the EU.