Use of climate-unfriendly fluorinated gases should be banned in new air-conditioning appliances and refrigerators by 2020, according to a vote on draft legislation in the Environment Committee on Wednesday. Overall use of potent hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) greenhouse gases should be reduced 84% by 2030, MEPs say.
Following bans on chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in the 1980s to stop depletion of the ozone layer, this draft legislation targets use of several other fluorinated gases that are harmful to the climate. "F-gases" can have a greenhouse warming effect thousands of times stronger than equivalent amounts of CO2.
"Today's vote represents an important step in the fight against climate change. Emissions of fluorinated greenhouse gases have risen by 60% since 1990 in the EU. Banning the use of these "super greenhouse gases" in refrigeration and air-conditioning is therefore urgently needed to reverse this negative trend", said lead MEP Bas Eickhout (Greens/EFA, NL), after the draft legislation was adopted by 48 votes to 19, with 1 abstention.
Referring to a recent agreement between US President Barack Obama and China President Xi Jinping, Bas Eickhout said: "The US and China have said they are willing to scale back use of HFCs. EU legislation can set a global example on how to do it."
Phase out, phase down
The committee proposes to entirely phase out the use of F-gases between 2015 and 2020 in several new sectors, where safe, energy-efficient and cost-effective alternatives are available.
MEPs say that overall use of HFCs must be reduced to a mere 16% of current consumption by 2030. (The European Commission had suggested 21%).
To respect the principle that the polluter should pay, the Environment Committee proposes charging producers a fee of up to 10 euros per tonne of CO2 equivalent for the HFCs they use. This would offer an additional incentive to innovate and recycle and help address any regional differences in the implementation of the regulation. The Commission would be tasked with carrying out an impact assessment to define the system and charges.
The committee strengthened the legislation by proposing an export ban to prevent appliances using fluorinated gases being dumped in countries outside the EU.
The Environment Committee voted to give a green light for the rapporteur to open negotiations with member states. If Council adopts a common position in July, talks can begin after the summer recess.
In the Chair: Matthias Groote (S&D, DE)