Industry worried about plans to control fluorinated gases

A stakeholder workshop, hosted by the European Fluorocarbon industry, discussed possible plans by the European Commission to regulate the use of fluorinated gases on 16 April. In an open and transparent debate, the representatives of European Fluorocarbon Technical Committee (EFCTC) and the European Partnership for Energy and the Environment (EPEE) expressed their doubts over some of the Commission’s intentions, pointing to the positive energy effiency and safety aspects of the use of these gases.

The plans to regulate F-gases incoporate the conclusions of
stakeholder consultations held under the auspices of the European
Climate Change Programme (ECCP) from March 2000 until July 2001.
Under the ECCP, a special working group involving Member States,
industry, NGOs and other stakeholders, issued several
recommendations. These covered:

  • improved monitoring and verification of F-gases emissions;
  • improved containment;
  • marketing and use restrictions for certain applications.

The main issues raised during the F-gases workshop related to:

  • the balance between the F-gases’ high Global Warming Potential
    and the improvement they offer for energy efficiency and safety,
    thereby making a positive contribution to climate change;
  • the flammability and toxicity of alternative fluids (ammonia,
    hydrocarbons) making them less safe than F-gases;
  • command-and-control regulation versus voluntary agreements with
    the F-gases industry to reduce emissions;
  • Member States initiatives (Denmark already has legislation,
    banning certain F-gases uses from 2006; Austria is planning new
    legislation) versus the requirements of the internal market;
  • European industry competitiveness if the EU were to become the
    only economic bloc to regulate the use of F-gases: with possibly
    substantial growth of F-gases emissions in China and other
    developing countries, what would be the effectiveness of EU
    measures in the global global warming problem?

 

Olivier Deleuze, the Belgian State Secretary for
Energy and Sustainable Development, opened the workshop by pointing
to the need to improve monitoring, containment and restrict the use
of F-gases in certain applications.

Mrs.
Marianne Wenning of DG Environment sketched the
background of the ECCP recommendations. She presented the results
of a new study by the Commission on greenhouse gas emissions by
Member States up until 2000. The results indicate that after a
first phase of reductions, emissions figures are going up again.
"Without additional measures at Community and Member State level
greenhouse gas emissions will increase by about 1 per cent (on 1990
levels), instead of declining by 8 per cent", she said. Mrs.
Wenning also indicated that her DG is thinking about amending
Regulation (EC) 2037/2000 on ozone-depleting substances to
implement the recommendations of the ECCP.

Dr. Clini of the Italian environment ministry said
that his government does not want a strong command-and-control
regulatory approach. He also warned the EU Commission to look at
the global market and not to taken steps in isolation.

Mr.
Tim Vink of EFCTC/Honeywell pointed to the need to
"act on fact" (in view of a lack of good information data) and
underlined the need to strengthen energy efficiency proposals.

For the environmental movement,
Mr. Jason Ande rson of Climate Network Europe,
urged the EU to actively promote the use of alternative
technologies. He said his organisation is doubtful that voluntary
agreements would produce the desired results. He called for a
regulatory approach with clear goals, which would aid teh
development of new solutions for the needs of society.

In his closing speech,
Mr. Busch, Director General of the EPEE, stressed
the willingness of his industries to minimise and contain the
emissions of F-gases. He also stated that he hopes a coherent and
consistent EU-wide framework with an emphasis on "Community level
provisions on monitoring and containment will ensure that the
vibrant refrigerant and air-conditioning sector will continue to
contribute to the competitiveness of the EU".

 

The fluorinated industrial gases (HFCs, PFCs and SF
6) are widely used in daily-life applications such as
refrigerators, air conditioning, thermal insulation, medical sprays
and semiconductor elements. In the 1990s, these gases substituted
ozone-depleting substances like CFCs following the entry into force
of the Montreal Protocol.

However, the high Global Warming Potential (GWP)
of these gases has raised new environmental concerns and the three
gases were therefore included in the basket of 6 greenhouse gases
identified in the Kyoto Protocol, together with CO
2, CH
4 and N
2O.

Fluorinated gases contributed about 2 per cent
to overall EU greenhouse gas emissions in 1995. Although scientific
figures on the potential growth of these gases differ considerably,
legislators as well as industry agree that future emissions should
be limited as much as possible.

 

  • 6 May: ECCP working group meeting approach and data
    reporting
  • End of May: working group meeting on containment and use
    bans
  • End June: finalise costs & benefits analysis
  • The F-gases proposal by the Commission is expected to be
    presented by October of this year.

 

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