The European Parliament has voted for containment measures to be imposed on the global warming F-gases used in refrigeration and air conditioning, thereby going against calls from its environment committee to impose strict bans.
EU Parliamentarians have opted for a containment policy to ease the impact of fluorinated gases on the earth’s warming climate and help the EU meet its commitments under the Kyoto Protocol.
Voting on 26 October in Strasbourg, the MEPs rejected earlier calls from colleagues led by Avril Doyle in the environment committee to impose gradual bans on most F-gases used in fridges, air conditioning systems and other so-called ‘stationary’ products (EURACTIV, 12 Oct. 2005).
On the most controversial issue – that of the legal base to be applied to the draft regulation -, MEPs have opted to ensure that the free circulation of goods in the EU internal market (Article 95 of the EC Treaty) prevails over environmental considerations (Article 175).
Proponents of an internal market legal base – supported by F-gas manufacturers and the refrigeration industry – argued that priority should be given to product harmonisation in order to prevent companies having to adjust to several environmental standards as they do business across the EU.
Socialists and Green MEPs – supported by environmental NGOs – had started off a controversy saying countries which impose stricter controls – such as Denmark and Austria – should be allowed to continue doing so. They pointed out that, under internal market provisions, a single EU standard would apply which could force these countries to adapt to weaker environmental standards.
But in the absence of a sufficient majority for a single legal base (whether environment or internal market), the double legal base agreed by EU ministers last year will continue to apply in the following way (EURACTIV, 15 Oct. 2004):
- Internal market (Article 95) for placing on the market, use and controls including labelling which is now compulsory
- Environment (Article 175) for monitoring, training and certification of workers, data on recovery and reporting
- In line with the Council position last year, a ban will apply for uses where containment is deemed inappropriate (magnesium die-casting, vehicle tyres, windows, footwear, non-refillable containers, certain foams, self-chilling drinking cans, certain aerosols, new fire protection systems, fire extinguishers)
In addition, MEPs did decide to put an electronic register in place so that businesses (and SMEs in particular) can find their way in the maze of national legislations which are likely to result from the regulation. Indeed, a provision was added to allow member states to maintain or adopt stricter F-gas controls if these are in line with their national greenhouse gas reduction targets under the Kyoto Protocol.
Car air conditioning systems
Parliamentarians have left virtually unchanged a proposal for phasing out F-gases used in car air conditioning systems:
- As of 2011: Ban for F-gases with a global warming potential of more than 150 for new models coming out of factories. This effectively rules out the use of HFC-134a but allows the less potent HFC-152a, which has a global warming potential of 120. (CO2 = 1 on GWP scale).
- As of 2017: Ban on F-gases with GWP of more than 150 for all cars