The European Commission wants to reduce the use of the powerful global warming gases mainly used in refrigerators and air-conditioners.
The European Commission proposed today (7 November) to reduce the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), powerful global warming gases mainly used in refrigerators and air-conditioners. Under the proposal, the use of HFCs will be cut to one fifth of today's use between 2015 and 2030.
Some appliances containing HFCs with currently available alternatives will be banned progressively between 2015 and 2020. But the number of appliances that will be banned has been significantly reduced compared to a previous draft.
The refrigeration industry has lobbied intensively against any bans, saying a reduction (described as a phase-down) and cap is enough.
Andrea Voigt, secretary-general of the European Partnership for Energy and the Environment – which represents the heating and cooling industry – said the bans will prove too costly and will reduce competitiveness without significant benefits in reducing emissions. Two bans on equipment used to charge and service refrigeration units are of particular concern, she said.
A spokesperson for the Commission said its impact assessment “proved that there are some technologies available that allow us to go further than the phase-down”.
HFCs are one of three types of fluorinated greenhouse gases (F-gases) covered by the Kyoto Protocol. The other two – perfluorocarbons (PFCs), used in the electronics sector, and sulphur hexafluoride (SF6), used as an insulation gas – are also covered by the proposal. F-gas emissions have increased by 60% since 1990 in the EU because they have been used to replace ozone-depleting substances banned by the Montreal Protocol. But it is now known that while they do not deplete the ozone layer, they have a warming effect on the atmosphere 23,000 times greater than CO2.
The Commission said it hopes the EU proposal will stimulate agreement on a global deal to phase out F-gases at a meeting of the Montreal Protocol parties later this month.
The London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) said the proposal, weakened from earlier drafts, is a capitulation to the refrigerant lobby. “It's a huge missed opportunity,” said EIA campaigner Alasdair Cameron. “There are no bans for industrial or commercial sectors, except in small categories. But alternatives are available, and they are working.”
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