Phasing out new fossil-fuel based boilers is vital to achieving the EU’s climate commitments

Joint open letter to European Commission's VP Timmermans



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Dear Executive Vice-President Frans Timmermans, 

There is increased attention to the role that buildings must play in the climate transition. The EU’s 2030  climate target plan requires the building sector to achieve 60% emission cuts between 2015 and 2030,  through the application of the energy efficiency first principle, mass deployment of renewable heating  and the phase-out of fossil fuels. The International Energy Agency’s net-zero roadmap has called for the  sale of new fossil-fuel based boilers to be ended from 20251 and the Council on 11 June 2021 called on  the Commission to prepare for the phase-out of fossil-fuel based heating and cooling appliances2.  

Phasing out the sale of new fossil-fuel based boilers within this decade is crucial to meet the EU’s climate  and energy targets as well as strengthen the Union’s competitiveness in renewable heating technologies.  To achieve a decarbonised building stock by 2050: 

1. The Ecodesign measures for space heaters must phase-out the sale of fossil-fuel based boilers3 through higher minimum energy efficiency requirements. 

The ongoing revision of Ecodesign measures for space and water heaters presents a not-to-be missed opportunity to engage in a complete phase-out of fossil-fuel based heating appliances. This undertaking is immense but if done correctly can result in massive benefits to European citizens, such as more comfortable and healthier homes4 and lower energy bills and provide a clear market signal to the heating industry on the upcoming transition from fossil to clean heating technologies. 

Banning the sale of inefficient fossil-fuel based combustion boilers through Ecodesign can deliver two thirds of the required emission cuts of residential and public buildings to achieve climate neutrality by 20505. The draft Commission regulation6 currently falls short of this potential with the risk of locking people into high carbon, inefficient and expensive heating technologies and locking the EU’s building stock in a high emission pathway. This needs to be  corrected as soon as possible, as heating appliances have long lifetimes7

The Commission has recently proposed a ban on the sale of cars and vans that produce carbon  emissions. A similar ban on the sale of fossil-fuel based combustion boilers should now be  implemented to cut emissions in the building sector. 

2. The upcoming revision of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) should not allow  the direct combustion of fossil fuels in new buildings.  

At the same time, new buildings’ continued use of fossil-fuel based heating technologies and the  continued promotion of gas grid connections further burden homeowners with additional  upgrade costs and lock-in higher bills and polluting emissions into the future. Owners of new  buildings should instead have the right to future proof buildings. The EPBD revision foreseen  later this year therefore should not allow the direct combustion of fossil fuels in new buildings. 

Fossil free new buildings are already the norm in more and more countries across Europe and  several national and city authorities are planning to phase-out new fossil-fuel based boilers and  establish fossil-free districts8. The EU should support these efforts and facilitate the rapid  transition from fossil fuels towards energy savings and renewable energy in buildings in a  socially just way. 

Acting now to phase out fossil-fuel based heating technologies will send a strong signal to investors and  can give Europe a first mover advantage in an area which will see rapid global growth in the near future,  since the EU currently has a strong renewable heating manufacturing base9 while decreasing the EU’s  dependence on imported fossil fuels10. Moreover, clean heating technologies will improve air quality,  resulting in health benefits and increased productivity for European citizens. 

We look to you to take these concrete steps this year to end the use of fossil fuels in our buildings, as  without such action it will be near impossible to decarbonize the building stock by 2050, strengthen the  EU’s clean heating manufacturing base and increase the quality of life of millions of EU citizens. We  would be pleased to further discuss these points in a call at your convenience.