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EU doors “wide open” to illegal refrigerant, EIA warns

Better comparisons of EU F-Gas data with export supply figures and a revised approach to strengthen customs enforcement among steps needed to tackle the illegal trade for HFCs

Introducing greater transparency within the F-Gas quota system is among several recommendations that will be vital to protect EU efforts to curbing greenhouse gas emissions, a new report has concluded.

The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) campaign group has said a range of enforcement changes are vital to ensure that European efforts to phase out HFC use in cooling are not undermined by a deluge of illegal products entering the EU.

These recommendations include improving reporting and monitoring of HFCs from exporting countries, as well as introducing a revised and fully functional licensing system for customs officials to determine the legality of any shipments of such products.

Changes to legislation that would prohibit use of disposable cylinders and the establishment of a system to compare official EU F-Gas data with international customs information is also backed by the EIA.

The organisation’s latest report, ‘Doors Wide Open: Europe’s flourishing illegal trade in hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs)’ has concluded that a decline in supplies of HFC products in the EU, owing to F-Gas quotas, has seen illegal trade for such products flourishing.

Clare Perry, who leads the EIA’s climate campaign work, said that curbing use of HFC products in cooling was a major part of EU efforts to tackle climate change. Yet there are fears about the negative impact of a thriving black market to meeting these aims.

She said, “The EU’s doors are wide open to large-scale illegal HFC trade, driven by quick profits and low risk of punitive measures and the absence of a system allowing customs officials to determine if an HFC import is actually legal or not.”

“A functioning licensing system is urgently needed and member states need to significantly and demonstrably strengthen enforcement.”

EIA added that concerns exist about the entry of illegal refrigerant not registered under EU regulations into a range of countries such as Denmark, Latvia, Poland, Greece, Croatia, Malta, Italy and Albania.

The organisation’s findings have compared 2017 customs data with figures reported under the F-Gas Regulation. This data found that an additional 14.8 MtCO2e of HFCs placed on the European market compared to the reported data provided.

Discrepancies were also identified by the EIA between Chinese export figures and the European import data that could also highlight fraud.

EIA climate campaigner Sophie Geoghegan expressed concern over the number of large discrepancies in data.

She added, “The 2018 customs data suggests HFC use exceeded the quota by more than 16 per cent – that’s greenhouse gases equivalent to the annual CO2 emissions from more than four coal-fired power plants – and we call on the European Commission and member states to examine this as a matter of urgency.”

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