Interview for Italians
The refrigerant industry tried to replace the ozone-depleting substances CFCs and HCFCs in the 90s. They made technological innovations in Air-conditioning and build new refrigerants such as HFCs developed to minimize the impact of refrigerants on the environment. The so-called F-Gases (hydrofluorocarbons or HFCs, perfluorocarbons or PFCs and sulphur hexafluoride or SF 6) were therefore introduced to replace the ozone-depleting substances as they were non-flammable and of low toxicity. However, the new substances are now being criticized as they have a high global warming potential (GWP). European actors such as Green Peace European Unit declare firmly that those substances have to be phased out:
While carbon dioxide from energy production is the largest contributor to climate change, extremely potent greenhouse gases, the so-called fluorinated gases, need to be immediately phased out. The use of HCFCs and HFCs today represents a classic example of industry replacing one problem with another. Both chemicals are potentially thousands of times stronger global warming gases than CO2.
Some -HFCs defenders-argue that refrigerants have adverse effects only if released in the atmosphere and that the solution consists in managing refrigerants safely so that the eventuality of them being released in the atmosphere is kept to a minimum.
The coming regulations on refrigerants emissions.
Because of their high GWP and of the fact that many of them stay for a long period in the atmosphere, several Members States are considering legislation for the control or phase out of some of these fluorinated gases while the European Commission is proposing a draft regulation of F-gases, adopted in August 2003, to reduce their emissions. The EU Council has published, in March 2005, a Common Position composed of two different texts to be transposed in national legislation once passed: a Regulation on Certain Fluorinated Greenhouse Gases and a Directive Relating to Emissions from Air Conditioning Systems in Motor Vehicles. The first text will focus on containment and recovery of F-gases, as well as on monitoring and reporting on emissions. The dispositions of the regulation will also provide for a labelling system of products while the directive will impose the ban and control of leakage of HFC-134a in mobile air conditionning. A second reading of these regulations is expected for next autumn: reports of Environment Committee will be adopted in September and a vote by the European Parliament in plenary is planned for October 2005. A final agreement is not expected before 2006. If adopted, Member States will have 18 months to implement it by issuing legislation.
European Actors’ opinion.