The role of clean heating in facing the environmental issue

The world’s eyes are on COP27, where international leaders and negotiators are meeting to agree over issues that can only be faced through cooperation.

That is the United Nations conference that for the last 3 decades have been bringing together almost every country on earth for summits. Topics such as finance, compensation and, most importantly, the environmental issues are usually discussed.

As climate change has become a global priority in recent years, these summits have been raising expectations, especially about the ability of participants to reach meaningful agreements on how to tackle climate change.

This years’ edition is primarily focused on how to keep global temperature rise to 1.5°C – a target set in the previous edition and that right now looks out of reach.

The previous summit in 2021 was initially described as the world’s last chance to get climate change under control, but only produced skepticism on the effectiveness of the goals set, which were considered inadequate.

The post-pandemic

While during the pandemic the world witnessed CO2 emissions declining for the drastic reduction of the global economic activity and mobility, the post-pandemic was characterized by a dramatic increase of emissions.

For the International Energy Agency, global energy-related carbon emissions rose by 6% in 2021 to their highest ever level. That happened partly because of the world economy having to heavily rely on coal to power the rebound from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Approximately half of this jump was due to the power and heat sectors, which increased CO2 emissions nearly reaching 14.6 Gigaton – their all-time high, almost 500 Megaton higher than in 2019.

An alarming increase that shows how important it is to reduce emissions from those sectors, both through energy efficiency measures and a full renewable energy switch.

Heating technologies in the EU

Cutting end-user emissions by replacing fossil fuel boilers with heat pumps is a key part of facing the environmental issue.

Most of the buildings’ heating systems in our cities rely on boilers running on fossil fuels such as natural gas and oil. In fact, approximately 50% of the stock of all EU28 countries contained a high share of gas and oil non-condensing boilers. As a result of that, heating and hot water account for a huge percentage of our city’s total greenhouse gas emissions.

Read more here about the impact heating technologies can have on the environment

But how can heat pumps help facing the environmental issue?

Heat pumps are very efficient technologies using electricity as a primary source of energy. That allows them to guarantee minimized environmental impact from energy use, but also allows to eliminate emissions produced by the burning of natural gas, oil, or propane, used in homes and businesses for space heating and hot water.

The need to speed up heating electrification

The use of heat pump is increasing – about 190 million heat pump units were in operation in buildings worldwide in 2021, the IEA says. The global stock of heat pumps has increased steadily over the past few years, particularly in North America, Europe, and northern and eastern Asia, and in 2021 (according to HEPA) both the US and China registered records in heat pump sales (34% increase on 2020).

Despite the positive trend, though, heat pumps still meet only 10% of the global heating and cooling need in buildings – with fossil fuels still meeting 45%. That means much still needs to be done to successfully transition from old heating technologies to heat pumps, especially if the net zero emissions by 2050 goal needs to be met.

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