The European Union joined global ranks last week in pushing for a limited ban on the use of appliances that rely upon hydroflurocarbons (HFC), or “super greenhouse gases.” The draft legislation follows several years of contentious negotiations with industry lobby groups and opposition from several member countries.
HFCs were introduced in 1990s to replace chlorofluocarbons after it was determined that CFCs were contributing significantly to the destruction of the planet’s ozone layer. Since that time, scientists have determined that HFCs speed up the impact of greenhouse gases thousands of times faster than CFCs.
HFC Phase-Down Dates
The proposed legislation, which must be approved by a vote from member countries, would impose a 79 percent reduction in emitted HFCs by 2030. This will be accomplished by banning certain appliances and services, including:
- By 2015 – Domestic refrigeration units that use HFCs and have a global warming potential (GWP) of 150 or more
- By 2020 – The service and maintenance of refrigerants with a rating of 2500 GWP and hermetically sealed room air-conditioning units
- By 2022 – Commercial refrigeration units using HFCs with a GWP of 150
- By 2025 – Single split air conditioning units that contain less than 3 kg of fluorinated greenhouse gases with a GWP of 750 or more.
Companies will be issued maximum quotas and will have the ability to purchase allowances to exceed those limits.
EU’s HFC Negotiations Criticized by Environmental Groups
Environmental groups welcomed the decision, but criticized the parliament’s disregard of data from outside sources.
“Research conducted for the European Commission at the beginning of the review process had indicated that the use of HFCs could be banned in all the major sectors from 2020, with alternative technologies matching or even improving the efficiency of the technologies, allowing a double win for the climate,” said Clare Perry, who serves as the head of the Environmental Investigation Agency’s Global Environmental Campaign. Perry accused the chemical industry of lobbying for weaker measures that in the end would slow climate recovery.
Final Votes Yet to Come
EU member state representatives must now vote on the proposed legislation, which will likely occur in early 2014. It must then be formally approved by Parliament and Council before it can become law.
Earlier this year, the US and China agreed to work on a phase-down of the production and use of HFCs Other countries that attended this year’s G20 summit have expressed interest in the effort. It is hoped that the EU’s proposed ban may encourage other nations to enact measures that would reduce HFC consumption.
Image of air-conditioning unit by Wikimedia user Arbitrarily0