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European Commission looks for 'flexible' HFC approach

The European Commission has indicated that it will look at a flexible approach to the future use of HFCs, combining containment and reduction, rather than adopt an accelerated phase out of the refrigerant

The news offers hope to supporters of the F-GasWorks campaign, who had feared the Commission would lean towards the view of green lobbyists, some of whom have urged a phase-out as soon as 2020 in developed countries. 

The news comes from refrigeration body EPEE which attended a meeting of the EC’s industrial emissions unit with 50 refrigeration bodies, end user representatives and green groups last week.

At the meeting, EC head of unit Marianne Wenning indicated that the costs and practical replacement of the refrigerant would be seriously considered, when developing a reduction plan for Europe. She also suggested that the EC would seek to complement the F-Gas Regulation, rather than abandon it, when it considers the future of HFCs.

Epee reports that Mrs Wenning talked of a flexible approach, perhaps with differing approaches for different industries, depending on the ability to provide substitutes.

While supporters of natural alternatives believe that industry should be spurred into developing the technology to meet the rising demand, some end user groups warned that the alternatives are not yet practical or cost effective. The European vending association for example said that while it supports the principle of finding HFC alternatives, they did not currently work for cost and lifespan reasons.

The United Nations TEAP Report, also published last week, and which is likely to be viewed as a reference document, stated that it is premature to consider an alternative to HFCs for many air conditioning uses, unless in very small charges.

EPEE has called for continued lobbying across the rac industry to ensure that the supporters of a rapid phase out do not overturn this view. The Commission will be discussing the way forward amongst member states over the summer and Mrs Wenning called for more data to back up the industries’ position.

Among the more extreme positions, Greenpeace has called for a phase out of HFCs by 2020 in developed countries and 2030 in developing countries, to prevent a ‘massive uptake of HFCs worldwide as HCFCs are phased out.’ It wants to see this done by a combination of ‘phase-out targets, financial incentives, technology co-operation and capacity building.”