Proposed ban on F-gases gets cool reception

The ban on fluorinated gases (F-gases) proposed by the Parliament’s environment committee has left industry concerned and NGOs only mildly happy.

The Parliament’s environment committee voted on 15 March
(co-decision, first reading) in favour of the

Goodwill reporton
the reduction of F-gases emissions. The main issues in the vote
were:

  • Mobile Air Conditioning (MAC): MEPs backed a total
    ban of F-gases (HFC-134a) on all new car’s air conditioning systems
    as of 2014, with a phase-out period starting from 2009. Air
    conditioning in cars was one the most heavily disputed issues in
    the F-gases regulation dossier. Producers contended that there was
    no ready alternative to HFC-134a and called the proposed ban
    inappropriate (see
    EURACTIV, 17 February
    2004
    ). MEPs supported the view that HFC-152a
    provided such an alternative and hence voted for it to be excluded
    from the ban. They also tightened the proposal by lowering the ban
    threshold of F-gases from 150 to 50 in terms of global warming
    potential.
  • Legal base: The Committee voted to base the
    regulation jointly on the internal market (article 95) and
    environment (article 175) provisions of the EC Treaty. The
    Commission’s orginal intention was to base the proposal on the
    internal market only so as to harmonise legislation throughout the
    EU. With the environment as a second legal base, Member States
    could adopt stricter rules of their own, therefore challenging this
    objective.
  • Containment: The issue of F-gases containment –
    preventing gas leakages into the atmosphere from appliances such as
    refrigerators – had been raised by environmental NGOs before the
    vote. A
    studypublished
    in February by Climate Action Network said that the containment
    strategy of the refrigeration and air-conditioning industry had
    failed to reduce leakages. The study was immediately contested by
    industry which pointed out the inaccuracy of the study. Under the
    proposed new rules, the containment strategy is kept for most fixed
    appliances (air conditioning systems, refrigerators, foams) while
    the ban is maintained for other industrial production techniques
    (SF6 in magnesium die-casting).

 

Climate Action Network (CAN) said they were
satisfied that MEPs pushed for the regulation to have its legal
base on the environment provisions of the EC Treaty, along with
internal market ones. "It shows that this is clearly an
environmental issue and the Committee recognised this," CAN Europe
told EURACTIV. However, CAN Europe said that choosing a dual legal
base will in effect postpone the decision to a later stage (in
plenary or Council), and described the move as only "a step in the
right direction". On the upholding of the containment strategy for
stationary appliances (such as refrigerators), CAN Europe believes
it is a "lost battle" that implies a lot of effort from industry
for little result.

The
European Fluorocarbons Technical Committee (EFCTC)
- which represents producers of F-gas es - said it regretted the
decision of the environment committee to "dictate the choice of
technology in mobile air-conditioning", arguing that HFC 134a
offers more flexibility and environmental performance. On the
choice of the dual legal base, EFCTC says "this could lead to
market distortions as some Member States might impose stricter
controls than others".

The
European Partnership for Energy and the Environment
(EPEE)
- which represents refrigerant manufacturers using
HFCs - opposes the proposed ban on HFCs and favours a strategy
based on containment. In EPEE's view, "banning the use of HFCs in
domestic refrigerators is inappropriate and does not help reaching
the goal of greenhouse gas emission reduction, as these gases are
contained in hermetically sealed systems". EPEE also regretted that
the committee amended the legal base from a purely internal market
to a dual one based also on the environment provisions of the
Treaty.

The
European automakers association (ACEA) said they
were currently examining the implications of the vote. The
discussion points focus on the alternatives to HFC-134a and the
deadlines for phase-out as well as the implications of the dual
legal basis.

 

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 car's air conditioning systems (see
EURACTIV, 9 September
2003
).

 

The Parliament is scheduled to vote on the proposed F-gases
regulation in its next plenary session (week of 25 March).

 

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