Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas says the agreed measures should shave some 20% off EU F-gas emissions by the year 2012 compared to 1995 levels.
European Parliament rapporteur MEP Avril Doyle (EPP-ED, Ireland) said, "Member States which currently have progressive legislation on fluorinated greenhouse gases have not been forced to lower their environmental standards. This sends a strong signal to Member States that they will be given every encouragement from the European Institutions to meet their obligations under the Kyoto Protocol."
The European Fluorocarbons Technical Committee (EFCTC), which represents producers of F-gases, supports the principle of controlling emissions rather than imposing a phase out or a ban. It therefore commended the Council and Parliament on reaching "a workable compromise" on the F-gas regulation focusing on containment. A key point for EFCTC is to keep market conditions level across the EU. "What is particularly important for us is that the internal market is respected. Banned products should be the same everywhere," said Véronique Garny from EFCTC, a member of the European Chemical Industry Council (CEFIC).
The European Partnership for Energy and the Environment (EPEE), an organisation representing refrigerant manufacturers using HFCs, has also been lobbying hard for containment measures instead of a ban on HFCs. EPEE noted with satisfaction that the compromise "prohibits the introduction of new measures from 2005" and that "existing national measures will cease to apply after 2012".
Environmental organisations have been calling for an immediate phase-out of F-gases because of their high global warming potential and have supported Austria and Denmark in their efforts to maintain their own, stricter national rules. "Austrians and Danes have a lot to celebrate," commented Mahi Sideridou, EU climate and energy policy director at Greenpeace after the agreement was announced. "We welcome the reduction [in greenhouse gas emissions] that the bill will create." However, in her view, the compromise misses out on the much greater reduction potential that the bill initially offered. "It is mostly a failure of the Commission," says Sideridou who believes the EU executive caved in to pressure from chemicals producers such as Dupont and Solvay. Greenpeace advocates the use of alternatives such as CO2 or hydrocarbon-based coolants as well as its own 'Greenfreeze' technology.
Concerning car air conditioning, alternatives to HFC-134a are still in the development phase and cannot be mass-produced at the moment, said F-gas producers at the EFCTC. The European car maker association (ACEA) said the phase-out was "challenging" but feasible and indicated that car makers are now focusing on finding viable alternatives. Japanese car makers (JAMA) said phasing out HFC-134a is not a problem for them as the Japanese market is already led by strong consumer demand for environmentally-friendly air conditioning.
One car industry expert said he believes most manufacturers will opt for a longer-term alternative to HFC-152a as it is relatively flammable and because it is likely to be phased out at a later stage anyway. He said most will opt for CO2-based mobile air conditioning instead - a technology which still needs further development (for more on car manufacturer's reactions, see EURACTIV 18 Oct. 2004).