By putting in place a clear timeline for phasing down HFC consumption worldwide, European Parliament member Bas Eickhout argues that the Kigali Amendment gives industry a clear signal to invest in alternatives to HFCs. Accelerate Europe reports.
Dutch Green MEP Bas Eickhout talks to Accelerate Europe
The Kigali amendment to the Montreal Protocol, agreed in the Rwandan capital in the early hours of 15 October, gives industry a clear signal that HFCs will be phased down all over the world, according to Bas Eickhout, a member of the European Parliament (MEP) for the Dutch Green Party.
The Kigali amendment – which is legally binding for all 197 Parties to the Montreal Protocol – sees developed countries take the lead on phasing down these potent greenhouse gases, starting with a 10% reduction in 2019 and delivering an 85% cut in 2036 (compared to the 2011-2013 baseline).
The Kigali deal splits developing countries into two groups. The first one – which includes China and African nations – will freeze consumption of HFCs by 2024, with their first reduction steps starting in 2029. A second group including India, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan and the Gulf countries will meet a later deadline, freezing their use of these gases in 2028 and reducing consumption from 2032.
EU F-Gas Regulation ‘made Kigali possible’
“Kigali wouldn’t have delivered this result without the EU F-Gas Regulation being in play,” Eickhout told Accelerate Europe magazine.
“The entire discussion was made possible by the EU showing that a law can be passed, and that markets will respond to and act on it. That ensured a positive mood.”
The EU’s F-Gas Regulation aims to reduce the bloc’s HFC use by 79% by 2030. To help deliver this target, it is progressively banning the use of certain HFCs in different types of new equipment. In 2022, for example, bans on using certain HFCs (GWP ≥ 150) in new centralised and plug-in commercial refrigeration equipment will come into effect.
With a clear global phase-down schedule now in place, hopes are high that the market will step up to deliver the targets enshrined in the Kigali deal. Should the market fail, Eickhout warns that politicians will step in.
“The progressive industries always say, ‘give us legislation, give us a target – we can move there, but the market needs a signal of where to go to’. They need a push,” says Eickhout.
“The market is asking for it – it’s there in our study,” the MEP says, referring to a report into the EU F-Gas Regulation commissioned by the Greens/European Free Alliance Group in the European Parliament.
“The study shows that sectors where the ban is in place are already moving. You can really see the signal that the legislation is giving. The sectors that are only part of the phase-down are hardly doing anything at the moment, so you really see the quick reactions in the sectors that have to stop,” Eickhout says.
Chief among his disappointments is that the Kigali agreement provides only for phasing down HFCs rather than banning them outright. “The big discussion that we had in designing the EU regulation was, ‘shouldn’t we have some sectoral bans?’ In sectors [where the phase-down is progressing quickly], why don’t we say, ‘after such and such a year, it stops for you',” Eickhout asks.
“That just wasn’t in the debate in Kigali – so that’s what I prefer about the European legislation,” he says.
“You have alternatives that are better for the environment and better for these companies – we’d be stupid not to go for it!"
- Dutch Green MEP Bas Eickhout
As countries around the world begin to implement the Kigali agreement, chemical companies that manufacture a new generation of fluorinated refrigerants (so-called HFOs) are expected to push for these to be adopted as alternatives to HFCs. What will happen if these require phasing down further down the line as environmental protection measures intensify?
“A tougher phase-down or more sectoral bans would give a clearer signal to the market to skip this intermediate phase and go to the natural [refrigerant] alternatives right away. Kigali could have been better there,” Eickhout argues.
The MEP believes Europe is in a good position to benefit from the HFC phase-down. “We import the majority of our f-gases. But the alternative [technology] is often from European industry. You have alternatives that are better for the environment and better for these companies – we’d be stupid not to go for it!" he argues.
Eickhout recognises the role that policymakers can play in encouraging industry to reduce HFC consumption. “Everyone should be concerned about the climate. But OK, if [companies] don’t want to be, then policy comes into play,” Eickhout says.