Just right: eight policy recommendations for sustainable, renewable and affordable heating and cooling by 2040

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The heating and cooling (H&C) sector makes up around half of the EU’s final energy
consumption with residential consumption alone accounting for almost a quarter. Almost 44%
of households’ greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions can be attributed to H&C. These figures show
the immense significance of the H&C sector in the EU’s energy system. Today, it strongly
depends on fossil fuels, which supplied over half of our H&C needs in 2021.

Our statement, focusing on decarbonising heating and cooling in residential buildings, proposes priority actions to be advanced in the 2024-29 EU policy cycle.

Fossil fuels are a risk to the EU’s security due to our strong import dependency, particularly on
gas, as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has demonstrated. Combustion-based appliances for H&C
damage EU public health through indoor and outdoor air pollution and accelerate climate
change by causing GHG emissions.

Fully decarbonising H&C by 2040 at the latest is therefore essential for attaining the EU’s
security, health, and climate objectives. The technologies to achieve this are mature and
abundant. What is required is the political will to develop policies grounded in the Energy
Efficiency First principle: lowering buildings’ heating and cooling demand and deploying non-
polluting H&C solutions, for example by setting energy efficiency requirements for space
heating solutions to 115% by 2030. However, the rollout of renewable H&C solutions is
currently too slow. The European Green Deal, while impressive in many aspects, missed a
historic opportunity to decisively phase out fossil fuels, keeping gas, coal, and oil in the EU
H&C system for at least another two decades.

Adopting ambitious policies can address the remaining barriers to a decarbonised and
renewable H&C transition. Policies adopted must ensure the inclusion of lower-income
groups, leaving no one behind regardless of their income and tenancy status, as well as
support for the development of workers’ skills to ensure rapid growth of the sector and long-
term European employment opportunities.

Fortunately, the technologies for the H&C transition already exist, with more and more people
choosing to switch to decarbonised H&C. In some frontrunner countries, the Nordics in
particular, they are almost the norm. Mainstreaming them all over Europe will boost our
industry’s competitiveness, strengthening our strategic autonomy globally while reducing our
GHG emissions. The associated improvement in air quality will make us healthier and benefit
our societies as a whole. The multiple benefits of this transition are significant, and are ours
for the taking.

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