LONDON: The European Union today struck a tentative deal to partially ban the use of a group of super greenhouse gases known as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) used in refrigeration and air-conditioning.
The review of the EU F-Gas Regulation will cap the amount of HFCs which can be placed on the European market and will gradually reduce it over time. By 2030, the volume of HFCs on the market is expected to be cut to 21 per cent of present levels.
HFCs are a group of chemicals with global warming potentials hundreds to thousands of times higher than carbon dioxide. Their use currently accounts for about two per cent of European emissions and this is growing rapidly.
Alongside the cap and phase-down, the EU has agreed to ban the use of HFCs in new equipment in a number of sectors, most notably commercial refrigeration by 2022. In addition, from 2020 very high global warming potential (GWP) HFCs (over 2500 times more potent that CO2) will no longer be used to service and maintain refrigeration equipment.
The London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) and Brussels-based European Environmental Bureau (EEB) today welcomed the move as a progressive and encouraging victory in the wider fight against climate change, despite disappointment that extensive negotiations had failed to agree earlier and stronger bans.
“Naturally, we would prefer more bans with fewer loopholes as these are the most effective method of preventing greenhouse gas emissions and there is overwhelming evidence that they would be feasible and cost-efficient,” said Clare Perry, Head of EIA’s Global Environment Campaign.
“Nevertheless, this is the beginning of the end for HFCs in Europe – at least now the industries involved will be able to see which way the wind is blowing and invest in cleaner, greener alternatives.”
The package contains a complex mix of market restrictions and bans. Research conducted for the European Commission at the beginning of the review process had indicated that the use of HFCs could be banned in all the major sectors from 2020, with alternative technologies matching or even improving the efficiency of the technologies, allowing a double win for the climate. However relentless lobbying by the chemical industry forced legislators to introduce weaker measures. This could slow down the pace of the adoption of climate-friendly replacement technologies.
Susanna Williams, Climate and Energy Policy Officer at the EEB, added: “It is regrettable that certain countries were unwilling to listen to the best evidence available and instead chose to side with the interests of the chemical industry and HFC equipment manufacturers. Despite this, we are pleased that legislators agreed bans in some key areas that will boost low-carbon innovation in Europe. The immediate focus now will be on the effective implementation of the legislation.”
The draft legislation now has to be approved by Member State Representatives and then formally approved by the European Parliament and Council, before being adopted in early 2014.
“What has been agreed here in Europe is a huge step towards the real prize of a global deal to address HFCs. If we can achieve that, we could avoid emissions of up to 100 billion tonnes of CO2-equivalent by 2050,” added Perry.