There's a boiler-sized loophole in proposed rules for renovating buildings to make them more efficient — and NGOs say that's the result of industry lobbying.
When the European Parliament voted Tuesday on a proposed a revision of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD), MEPs agreed to phase out fossil fuel-fired boilers from households by 2040 at the latest — but with a catch. They added an amendment that will allow boilers in new buildings as long as they're certified to run on renewable fuels like biofuels or hydrogen.
Ahead of the vote, there was an intensive lobbying effort by boiler companies keen to ensure their industry isn't wiped out in the effort to slash greenhouse gas emissions from buildings, according to a new report by NGOs European Environmental Bureau, the Environmental Coalition on Standards and Green Transition Denmark.
The NGO report says that Liquid Gas Europe, a lobby group for EU liquid petroleum gas firms, created Rural Futures — an organization undeclared in the lobbying register — “to pose as [a] grassroots campaign.” On its website, Rural Futures says it is “a campaign supported by Liquid Gas Europe.”
Rural Futures pitches itself as a group looking out for the interests of rural people who will have a harder time in the green transition, and calls boilers “reliable and cost-effective technology.” It has previously hosted events, including a virtual one with Irish MEP Seán Kelly, the lead lawmaker on the EPBD for the European People's Party.
While parliamentary negotiators are supposed to declare “scheduled meetings with interest representatives,” according to the institution’s rules, the ambiguous definition of “any meeting with the purpose of influencing the policy” creates a blurred line for industry-sponsored events.
After POLITICO contacted Kelly for comment, the Rural Futures event was added to his registry, said an assistant to the MEP.
The assistant called it an “admin error” and said “it was our understanding that we didn’t break any rules,” adding: “We should be better with transparency.”
“We intend to ensure that we will register any meetings, potentially considered to be lobbying in the future to avoid any further doubt about Mr Kelly’s integrity,” they added.
Kelly's office has since received written clarification from the Parliament's services that the suggested meetings with the gas industry do not fall under mandatory reporting obligations in their view.
Parliament is aware of the ambiguity in its reporting rules and there is a bid to "tighten loopholes" as part of a broader effort to reform transparency requirements, said a Parliament spokesperson.
Liquid Gas Europe General Manager Ewa Abramiuk-Lete said Rural Futures is “an online campaign visibly supported by Liquid Gas Europe” and “its member companies fully abide to the rules set out in the EU Transparency Register.”