The European Union is looking to cut 40% of carbon emissions from buildings, but it hasn’t decided exactly how. So, now’s your chance to influence the debate …

A new European green paper on energy efficiency is putting energy savings higher on the regulatory agenda. This is not surprising, as Europe is faced with increasing oil prices and the prospect of having to import 70% of its energy by 2030. So how will we go about cutting 20% of energy consumption by 2020, saving an estimated €0bn (£40bn) off our energy bill, and helping to meet the Kyoto commitments in a cost effective way?

The options listed by the European commission cover all sectors – households and buildings, transport, production and end-use, industry and services, international relations – and all stakeholders, from national, regional and local decision-makers, to banks, international institutions and individual consumers.

However, rather than a raft of new rules, the focus is on the proper implementation of existing EU legislation. Indeed the commission believes that as much as half of the required savings could be achieved in this way.

The most important piece of these is the directive on energy efficiency in buildings, due to be implemented across Europe by January 2006 but seriously behind schedule almost everywhere. The commission is suggesting that the scope of the directive be extended to smaller buildings. Although building owners will need to present an energy performance certificate each time their building is sold or rented, but there is still no obligation to make energy efficiencies.

The most important piece of legislation is the directive on energy efficiency in buildings, due to be implemented across Europe by January 2006, but seriously behind schedule almost everywhere

Another important element of the green paper is that it deals with the follow-up to the directive on end-use energy efficiency, which is still under discussion in Brussels, and which covers the period up to 2015. The European parliament is pushing for ambitious and binding targets for reducing energy sold to private households and the public sector after that date. However, in a document leaked last week, just days after the commission’s green paper, the 25 national governments scaled back the targets and scrapped every binding element.

The commission also comes up with a wide range of other policy tools in its discussion document. One such is the public procurement rules, which could be adapted to improve energy efficiency and kickstart new technologies. Other tools include improving energy pricing and taxation to ensure that the polluter really pays, finding improved financial incentives, formulating annual energy efficiency action plans at national level, and information and training.

Consumers also have a role to play by using energy saving lamps, replacing old boilers and fridges, checking the pressure of their car tyres and insulating their roofs.

The green paper is a starting point for a broad debate on key issues for global climate change strategies. The commission is anxious to collect answers to its questionnaire by the end of September. So now is your chance to have your say, because in 2006, after the consultation process, the commission will present an action plan.