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Refcom urges post-Brexit parity with F-Gas regulations

Industry body joins FETA in telling parliamentary committee that preferred option to curb HFCs would be to mirror or remain as close to existing EU F-Gas phasedown regime as possible

Refcom has urged the UK government to continue to comply with the EU’s F-Gas regulations as closely as possible following the conclusion of the Brexit process.

The organisation made the call during a recent investigation by the parliamentary Environmental Audit Committee into UK progress on curbing emissions of HFCs and other F-Gas. The Federation of Environmental Trade Associations (FETA), which also took part in the inquiry, echoed similar sentiments on how the UK should look to curb emissions when no longer an EU member state.

Graeme Fox, senior mechanical engineer at the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) that manages Refcom, told the committee that remaining committed to EU targets would ensure the UK was ahead of broader global targets set out in the Montreal Protocol and the recently ratified Kigali amendment.

He said, “We are already ahead of the game in the UK because of our adoption of the F Gas regulation.”

FETA commercial manager Martyn Cooper said at the same time that ensuring industry access to refrigerant going forward would be vital when considering any amendments to change the UK’s commitment and reporting regime for curbing F-Gas emissions.

With manufacturers, suppliers and end users having spent time and money to ensure compliance, Mr Cooper argued for as close as possible regulatory alignment so UK and EU suppliers could continue to support each other at a time when gas supplies were being further restricted.

Mr Cooper said, “In an ideal world, you’d carry on as if nothing had happened. But clearly that isn’t going to happen, therefore you need to have a UK system that mirrors as closely as possible the EU system, while not putting either party at a disadvantage.”

He added, “The situation you have is that the largest quota holder under the EU system is a UK-based company. Now they don’t just sell in the UK, they also sell into Europe, so equally European-based quota holders sell into the UK.”

Stakeholders during the committee hearing discussed the need of considering a possible reciprocal arrangement to keep current phasedown commitments on track over the coming years.

Quota cuts

With the most significant quota cuts outlined under the F-Gas regulation coming into effect from 2018, Graeme Fox told the committee that some of the highest GWP refrigerants on the market had already doubled, and in some cases tripled, in price.

He added,” While this is great news for the environment, it has also put real pressure on our industry’s skills base. Contractors need to be able to work with alternatives some of which are mildly flammable and many of which are not suitable for retrofitting in existing systems – this means they need to undertake further training.”

Mr Fox argued that price rises of up to 60 per cent had been recorded for the refrigerants R404A and R507A in December alone.

A further 37 per cent reduction of the availability of such gases on the market next year was also driving up prices on the lower GWP alternatives as a result of increased demand, he said.

Mr Fox urged the committee during the session that as opposed to amending current F-Gas targets or regulations, the government should prioritise enforcement and compliance.

He therefore pushed for more resources to be afforded to the Environment Agency to better police F-Gas regulations and welcomed the possibility of introducing civil penalties for possible infringements.

A consultation on introducing a new civil penalties for infringing F-Gas launched by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Scottish Government closed late last month.

Further coverage of the committee’s F-Gas investigation and its fallout can be read in January’s RAC Magazine.

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