The core focus is on the phasing out of old stoves and fireplaces. Photo: / Rawpixwl ltd CC BY

Flemish Green Deal on domestic wood heating

An accelerated replacement or phasing out of old wood-fired heating devices can bring significant additional reductions in PM2.5 emissions.

Domestic wood heating with polluting devices such as older wood stoves and open fireplaces, and the poor use of the domestic wood heating devices, have a significant impact on the environment and health in Flanders, in particular during the heating season.

In 2017 the Flemish Minister for the Environment commissioned the Flemish Environment Department to start preparing a Green Deal on domestic wood heating, together with the relevant sector federation and other government institutions. A Green Deal is an effective and well-suited instrument – due to its systematic approach, structured action plan and broad cooperation between government institutions, civil society organisations, companies and other involved actors – to fully address the many problems that are caused by domestic wood heating.

The Green Deal on domestic wood heating was signed on 22 October 2018 by 24 participating parties, including the initiators. It will run for a period of four years and can possibly be extended. The participants commit themselves to implementing concrete actions: to be clear the Green Deal is an effort commitment and not an obligation of the participants to achieve specific results and objectives.

The key objectives of the Green Deal on domestic wood heating are:

  • to reduce emissions of air pollutants, such as PM and PAH, from domestic wood heating by at least 50 per cent by 2030 compared to current levels;
  • to phase out at least half of the old and most polluting stock by 2030, while aiming for a 100% phase out;
  • to implement a system to collect all phased-out (removed) wood heating devices in order to prevent resale of these devices in the second-hand market;
  • to implement necessary additional regulations and instruments with respect to proper installation, maintenance, inspection and use of wood heating devices.

The Green Deal lists 27 actions, clustered into four groups (see Table):

  1. actions to reduce emissions and negative impacts of domestic wood heating in the short term;
  2. actions to increase knowledge on emissions and impacts of domestic wood heating;
  3. additional supporting actions, i.e. to improve communication, education and awareness concerning the use of wood heating devices;
  4. actions to develop a long-term vision regarding the future role of firewood in domestic heating and regarding the optimised use of wood in a broader context (according to the cascading principle).

Three action-oriented working groups and a steering committee are responsible for the realisation of the concrete actions. The steering committee ensures the overarching management, follow-up and monitoring of the implementation of the Green Deal and is responsible, among other things, for actions relating to the development of an overarching long-term vision.

The core focus of the Green Deal is on the phasing out of old stoves and fireplaces. On the basis of current policies and an autonomous annual replacement rate of around 1.5–2.5 per cent of the old heating devices, the PM2.5 emissions from domestic wood heating could be decreased by approximately 25–35 per cent by 2030. An accelerated replacement or phasing out of the old devices could lead to a significant additional reduction of PM2.5 emissions.

Peter Meulepas
Policy adviser, Environmental Department – Flanders

The report “Green Deal: Huishoudelijke houteverwarming” is available (in Flemish only) at:


Table: Overview of planned actions

N°        Description Deliverable
Actions to reduce emissions and negative impacts of domestic wood heating in the short term
1 Exploring the feasibility and potential of phasing out old polluting heating devices (stoves/fireplaces) based on emission limit values, age or other systems (e.g. subsidies)   Identification of most appropriate phase-out system
2 Exploring the feasibility and potential of retrofitting old polluting heating devices    Cost-benefit analysis of retrofitting versus phase-out. Identification of circumstances when retrofitting can be recommended as a solution.
3 Elaborating the most suitable system for phasing out and/or retrofitting old polluting heating devices in Flanders    Legislative or non-legislative proposal to implement the selected system
4 Exploring the possibilities to prevent the resale of phased-out heating devices in the second-hand market    Pilot project with a fully developed system to collect, remove (and dismantle) phased-out devices
5 Setting up supportive communication campaigns around phasing out and retrofitting of old heating devices    Appropriate communication products addressing local authorities, architects, consumers, etc.
6 Discouraging the sale of new wood heating devices that do not meet sufficiently ambitious emission and efficiency requirements     Appropriate communication products to incentivise consumers and dealers towards the best available technologies when purchasing a new device
7 Exploring the potential of technological improvements    Report identifying Best Available Technologies for domestic wood heating systems
8 Promoting further technological research and development    Identification of ways to support further research and development towards near-zero emission wood heating devices
9 Defining conditions and developing instruments concerning the proper installation, maintenance and inspection of wood heating devices and flue gas discharge    Appropriate communication products, supporting tools, regulations defining minimum requirements, code of good practice, etc.
10 Developing rules concerning the proper location of ventilation orifices and chimneys, in particular for energy efficient and air-tight new buildings    Integrated code of good practice
11 Review and revision of current burn wise educational material    Code of good practice on burn wise; communication products and awareness campaigns
12 Facilitating the use of wood moisture meters to encourage the use of dry firewood    Actions supporting the distribution of wood moisture meters and awareness
13 Improving the tackling of nuisance complaints from domestic wood heating    Roadmap/guidance to treat complaints in a structured way
14 Improving market surveillance and enforcement of existing and new regulations on domestic wood heating    Additional market surveillance and enforcement provisions
Actions to increase knowledge on emissions and impacts from domestic wood heating
15 Knowledge-building on real-world emissions and efficiencies of old and new heating devices    Use of improved knowledge to improve emission inventories, policies and measures, and communication
16 Knowledge-building on the composition of installed heating stock    Methodology to monitor the evolution of the composition of the installed heating stock
17 Knowledge-building on the use of firewood for domestic heating    Methodology to monitor the use of firewood (logs, pellets, chips) per type of heating device
18 Improving estimates of emission projections for domestic wood heating    More reliable projections to be used as a basis for emission reduction policies
19 Improving mapping of local contributions from domestic wood heating   Improved modelling and visualisation of local contributions to air quality
20 Knowledge-building on the exposure from and effects of domestic wood heating    Human biomonitoring research, linking increased exposure to air pollution to firing of wood in domestic heating devices
21 Analysis of the impact from domestic wood heating on indoor air    Health impacts of indoor air pollution from own heating device
22 Analysis of the environmental costs of the different domestic heating systems (wood, coal, gas, solar, heat pumps, etc.)    Report on the analysis
Additional supporting actions
23 Developing a global communication strategy and coordinating various communication products    Overarching strategy and framework to ensure objective and uniform communication
24 Developing a system for the registration of existing and new heating devices    Registration system
25 Assessment of the applicable legislation at regional, national and European level    Identification of gaps, overlaps and potential improvements, tightening and additions
Actions on developing a long-term vision
26 Developing a long-term strategy (2030–2050) on domestic heating i.e. taking into account energy and climate change policy, impacts of different heating systems and availability of wood for use as firewood   Defining the future role of domestic wood heating in domestic heating and appropriate boundaries
27 Improving cascading of various wood streams    System to improve optimal use of available and collected wood streams between different uses (as material, energy source, firewood, etc.)

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