Seven NGOs have issued a manifesto calling on the European Commission (EC), the European Parliament and the EU member states to fully decarbonize home heating and cooling.

The manifesto, “Renewable Heat for All,” is signed by Climate Action Network (CAN), Environmental Coalition on Standards (ECOS), European Environmental Bureau (EEB), Friends of the Earth Europe, Greenpeace, CEE Bankwatch Network and Global Witness.

The manifesto asks policy makers to decisively reduce Europe’s dependence on fossil fuels for home heating by favoring “renewable, non-emitting heating and cooling solutions [that] have been on the market for years and are now mature technologies.”

Though the manifesto does not mention natural refrigerant-based heat pumps, such as those that use propane (R290) or CO2 (R744), as an alternative to fossil fuels, all of the organizations “support climate-friendly solutions,” said Davide Sabbadin, Senior Policy Officer for Climate and Circular Economy for EEB. “I would say this is more of a precondition to deploy[ing] the non-emitting heating systems we talk of in the manifesto in a way that does not harm the environment and our climate.”

The manifesto addresses the need to make climate-friendly heating and cooling systems available and affordable. “The European Union and national governments must rapidly scale up programmes that ensure all households can take advantage of the benefits of energy savings and renewable heating technologies,” it said.

In particular, the NGOs urged governments to  “divert fossil fuel subsidies to renewable energy solutions [to] protect vulnerable consumers.”

Compared to fossil fuel-based heating, renewable heating and cooling have an inherent economic advantage, says the report, because they are cheaper to run, have lower emissions, tackle poor air quality and can meet the scale of action.

The document also calls for:

  • Decommissioning large parts of the current gas grid and stopping new residential connections
  • Facilitating access to domestic renewables and district heating
  • Ending the sale of gas boilers
  • Embracing energy savings. “The cleanest, cheapest form of energy is the one we don’t use,” says the manifesto.

In addition, the manifesto cites the link between fossil fuels used to heat homes and public health, indoor air quality and urban air pollution. “Addressing the climate crisis and this public health crisis go hand in hand,” the seven civil-society organizations state. “The aim is to promote a democratic energy system that supports the people and the planet with the deployment of zero-emission buildings with high energy efficiency and powered by 100% renewable energy.”

“We need to heat our homes, not the planet,” says the manifesto. “Shifting away from fossil fuels to fully decarbonize our homes is one of this decade’s climate priorities.”

In addition to climate concerns, the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine has highlighted the EU’s dependence on Russia for fossil fuels. In 2020, Russia was the source of 26% of the EU’s oil imports and 40% of its gas imports, according to the EC.

Other European efforts

The EC is currently working to decarbonize heating and cooling in multiple initiatives.

For example, last December the EC proposed a revision of its Energy Performance Building Directive that includes roadmaps for phasing out fossil fuels in heating and cooling by 2040 at the latest, among other measures affecting the cooling and heating sectors.

Also last December, the EC published new efficiency-based rules for calculating the quantity of renewable cooling and district cooling that can be counted towards the EU’s renewable energy targets.

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