New rules on F-gases adopted as bill goes through Parliament

F-gases in cars’ air conditioning systems are to be banned from 2014, but will be maintained in refrigerators and other home equipment. Environmentalists say Parliament bowed to industry pressures.

The Parliament plenary on 31 March adopted the

Goodwill reporton the reduction of
F-gases emissions. MEPs had to decide on several issues that left
industry and environmental NGOs divided:

  • Mobile Air Conditioning (MAC): The plenary backed
    a total ban of F-gases (HFC-134a) on all new cars’ air conditioning
    systems as of 2014, with a phase-out period starting from 2011
    instead of 2009 as proposed by the Parliament’s Environment
    Committee (see
    EURACTIV, 19 March
    2004
    ). The Commission’s proposed quota
    system has therefore been abandoned altogether in favour of a gas
    type approval approach (HFC-152a is to replace HFC-134a). However,
    the plenary maintained the Environment Committee’s proposal to
    lower the ban threshold on F-gases from 150 to 50 in terms of
    global warming potential.

    Cars’ air conditioning systems are generally considered to be
    responsible for the greater part of F-gas leakages into the
    atmosphere and was the most heavily disputed issue in the F-gases
    dossier.
  • Legal base: Parliament voted to base the
    regulation on the internal market provisions of the EC Treaty
    (Article 95), going against the Environment Committee’s position to
    base it also on the environment (Article 175). With the environment
    as a second legal base, Member States could have adopted stricter
    national rules, thereby opening the possibility for manufacturers
    to adapt to varying legal constraints across the EU.
  • Containment: The Parliament stuck with the initial
    Commission proposal to apply a containment strategy on F-gases in
    air-conditioning systems and refrigerators (stationary appliances).
    Leakages from those appliances had raised concerns among
    environmental NGOs but their views were not taken on board (see
    EURACTIV, 19 March
    2004
    ).

 

Jason Anderson, from Climate Action Network Europe (
CAN Europe), told EURACTIV they were "generally
happy" with the phase out system imposed on cars' air conditioning
systems. However, he regretted that the phase out period was
virtually abandoned as it will only apply from 2011 instead of
2009. "The longer you wait, the less incentive there is for
change," he argues. On the legal base, CAN Europe is "disappointed"
about the result. Anderson says countries who were considering more
stringent laws on F-gases would now have to refrain from doing so
as they would run the risk of being rebuffed by the Court of
Justice. As for refrigeration, he disapproved that the Commission's
containment strategy was maintained. alternatives such as the more
costly Hydrocarbon technology were not seriously considered, he
believes. "It is a mixed result," he concludes. "The conservatives
got what they wanted."

Reacting to the vote,
Greenpeace declared that Parliament failed to
address the threat of climate change. The failure, it said,
concerns both mobile air conditioning for cars and 'stationaries'
such as refrigerators as well as foams. Moreover, Greenpeace
deplored that Member States were not permitted to impose stricter
rules on F-gases by basing the regulation on the environment
provisions of the EC Treaty.

Speaking on behalf of the
EFCTC - which represents the fluorocarbons
industry -, Véronique Garny told EURACTIV they were "very positive
about the outcome" of the vote in Parliament. EFCTC is particularly
happy that the regulation will have its legal base on the internal
market provisions of the EC Treaty instead of a dual one with the
environment. On air conditioning for cars, she says the EFCTC
"could not have hoped for a better outcome" considering the
institution's resolve on the issue, but expressed satisfaction that
the ban will take effect from 2014. This she says, will leave the
car industry enough time to adapt.

Refrigerant manufacturers represented by
EPEE particularly welcomed the parliament's
refusal to change the legal base from an internal market one to a
dual legal base. EPEE also welcomed the rejection by Parliament of
the Environment Committee's proposal to ban HFCs in 'ready-to-plug
refrigerators' and 'stationary air conditioning', which went
against the containment strategy it advocated. This approach, EPEE
says, "was further strengthened by the European Parliament's
adoption of a number of amendments to the containment and reporting
provisions".

Talking to EURACTIV two weeks ahead of the vote in plenary, the
European carmakers association (
ACEA)said they were examining the implications of
the proposed ban in cars' air conditioning systems. Internal
discussions among the EU automakers' association focus on the
alternatives to HFC-134a and the deadlines for phase-out.

 

On 12 August 2003, the Commission adopted a proposal for a
regulation to reduce by almost one quarter the projected
fluorinated gas emissions by 2010 as part of its

European Climate Change Programme (ECCP).
The main elements of the proposal are provisions to improve the
containment of these gases, better reporting, specific restrictions
on marketing and use of F-gases in certain applications, and a
phase-out of HFC-134a of cars' air conditioning systems (see
EURACTIV, 9 September
2003
).

 

EU environment ministers will have to endorse the F-gases
regulation. It is very unlikely that the Council will be able to
reach a common position at the June Environment Council meeting.
The Council's Working Party will begin its consideration of this
proposal under the Irish Presidency later this month.

 

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