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European countries secretly releasing HFC-23 despite environmental impact

European chemical manufacturers are surreptitiously venting large quantities of HFC -23, according to a new study.

The study, by EPMA, the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology, claims that Western European emissions of HFC-23, a super greenhouse gas with a global warming potential some 14,800 times higher than CO2, are as much as 140 per cent higher than the figures contained in national emissions reports.

HFC-23 destruction, said to be a low-cost process, is not currently mandated by the EU’s F-Gas Regulation and most producers claim to voluntarily destroy the gas.

The Swiss study showed that Solvay’s Solexis plant near Milan is venting 10-20 times more HFC-23 than Italy is reporting. Significantly higher emissions were also reported from The Netherlands, where US manufacturing giant Dupont operates a plant in Dordrecht, and to a lesser extent from the Ineos plant in the UK. Emission levels from the Arkema plant in France were also twice as high as reported values.

Later this year, the European Commission will decide whether to revise the F-Gas regulation, which was adopted in 2006. As well as casting serious doubt on the reliability of emissions data reported under the Kyoto Protocol, EMPA’s findings highlight the weaknesses inherent in the EU’s F-Gas policy framework.

Clare Perry, Senior Campaigner for the Environmental Investigation Agency, said: “Given the vast profits made by the European fluorochemical industry, it is absolutely scandalous that they are not destroying all HFC-23 produced by their factories.

“The EU should mandate 100 per cent destruction of HFC-23 and there is an opportunity to do this right now with the revision of the F-Gas Regulation.”

Outside Europe, HCFC-22 manufacturers in China and India have received several billion dollars to capture and destroy the HFC-23 waste by-product under the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM).

The ‘avoided’ emissions are then converted to Carbon Credits and sold as offsets, primarily to EU nations and other Kyoto signatories to meet their emissions reductions targets.

Recently, the EU moved to ban the use of these offsets in its Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) as of May 2013, and a proposal by Denmark has called upon EU Member States to similarly ban the use of HFC-23 offsets in meeting their national reduction targets in the non-traded sectors.

Sixteen of the 27 EU nations have signed up to the Danish proposal however several key countries have so far resisted, including Italy, which is claimed to have significant financial stake in HFC-23 offset projects.

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