Gas boilers undermine the European Union’s 2030 climate goals. So why do the majority of EU governments continue to subsidise their installation in our homes?
Households in at least 19 of the EU’s 27 member states still receive state support ranging from €300 to €2,500 to buy and install new gas boilers, according to the latest analysis by the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) on behalf of the Coolproducts campaign.
The study finds that this type of fossil fuel subsidies – including tax reductions, loans and grants – are in most cases misleadingly planned as part of climate action measures.
Only seven countries in the EU have so far stopped the flood of public money going into fossil fuel heating. These include Bulgaria, Denmark, Ireland, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta and the Netherlands. Outside of the EU in Europe, they are joined by Norway.
Greece, Italy, Poland and some Austrian regions ranked amongst the worst in Europe – mostly due to their governments’ decision to continue subsidising oil and LPG boilers as well.
Make polluters pay
State support for fossil fuel heating systems is slowing down the uptake of truly sustainable solutions, Coolproducts campaigners warned. According to the latest Eurostat data, the share of geothermal, solar and other renewable sources of energy used for heating and cooling was a mere 6% of the sector’s final energy consumption.
This is despite a steady increase in the installation of climate neutral technology such as heat pumps, which in 2018 resulted in 32.8 Mt of CO2 emissions saved across the EU – the equivalent of the combined emissions of Cyprus, Latvia and Luxembourg in 2017.
“Governments need to shift subsidies away from gas boilers and towards clean solutions such as heat pumps, renewable district heating and solar panels instead,” said Davide Sabbadin, a policy officer at the EEB.
The subsidies ultimately jeopardise Europe’s climate goals. The European Commission estimates that a 40% reduction in gas heating emissions is needed to achieve the EU goal of slashing total emissions by at least 55% in the next decade.
Currently, the heating and cooling sector is responsible for half of the EU’s annual energy consumption and a third of its CO2 emissions – something that has prompted calls to ban the sale of gas, oil and coal heating systems across Europe.
Time is running out
A recent report by ECOS on behalf of Coolproducts found that a phase-out of new gas and oil boilers by 2025 would save 110 million tonnes of CO2 emissions each year through 2050. This would amount to two thirds of the total emissions reduction needed from residential and public buildings to achieve climate neutrality – and the equivalent of the total CO2 emissions of Sweden and Finland in 2018.
But time is running out. Mélissa Zill, a programme manager at ECOS, warned that delaying the ban beyond 2025 would be a mistake due to the long-shelf life of this technology.
“Most of these appliances last more than 25 years and if we continue installing them, we will still be burning fossil fuels for heating in 2050,” she said, adding that “fossil fuel subsidies need to be out of the equation,” and that “governments should focus on encouraging consumers to switch to clean alternatives instead.”