The heating sector has no plans for climate neutrality – new brand audit

A new brand audit reveals that most of Europe’s leading manufacturers of heating systems are delaying the phase-out of fossil gas and oil boilers, putting the EU on path to miss its 2030 and 2050 climate targets.

The heating and cooling sector is responsible for half of the EU’s annual energy consumption and a third of its CO2 emissions.

Yet, despite efforts to portray themselves as sustainable, most of Europe’s leading manufacturers of heating systems have failed to disclose plans to switch production from fossil-fuel boilers to solar thermal systems and heat pumps, according to a brand audit.

The report was commissioned by the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) on behalf of the Coolproducts campaign and summarises the findings of a questionnaire evaluating the climate compatibility of 53 companies that were interviewed or approached for an interview.

The audit reveals that 42 companies either refused to disclose information about their climate plans or admitted having no such plans. These companies include big names such as Bosch, Carrier and Toyota.

Only six of the remaining companies surveyed have opted to sell heat pumps and solar heating systems exclusively, while five are in the process of transitioning towards sustainable solutions. 

Stephane Arditi, Director of Policy Integration and Circular Economy at the EEB and one of the authors of the report, said that the findings and lack of collaboration signaled tough times ahead for the decarbonisation of one the most polluting sectors in Europe. “We need companies to do their part in the transition to clean energy, particularly those that have been benefiting from decades of climate-wrecking business decisions and government subsidies,” he argued.

EU officials are currently drafting plans for what campaigners expect to be a gradual phase-out of gas and oil boilers, in line with Europe’s plans for the renovation and decarbonisation of our homes. Estimates by the European Commission point to the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from buildings by 60% in order to achieve the EU’s goal of slashing total emissions by at least 55% in the next decade. 

On a positive note, manufacturers opened the door to the possibility of greening their businesses. While painting a damning picture for Europe’s road to climate neutrality, the survey shows that most respondents would support a ban of gas boilers should the EU institutions propose one. The audit also found overwhelming support among respondents for an immediate end of subsidies incentivising the uptake of fossil-fuel technologies

But swift action is needed – and we might not have enough time to wait for policymakers to develop and implement all necessary measures. Due to the long shelf life of heating systems (up to 25 years), the installation of new gas boilers must end by 2025. This is the only to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, recent studies showed.

“Manufacturers must think forward and change their business models accordingly, instead of looking back and promoting fossil-fuel boilers – it’s time to accept they are a thing of the past,” concluded Mélissa Zill, programme manager at ECOS and one of the policy leads in the Coolproducts campaign.