EU countries urged to tackle illegal HFC trade

By Marie Battesti, Nov 21, 2018, 16:55 3 minute reading

Policy experts at ATMO Europe identified the illegal trade in HFCs and obsolete safety standards as key hurdles for wider uptake of natural refrigerants.

Bente Tranholm-Schwarz, European Commission addresses ATMOsphere Europe 2018.

Photo credit: Ben Beech.

Combatting illegal imports of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and revising safety standards for flammable refrigerants to allow wider use of hydrocarbons remain crucial to achieving the HFC phasedown taking place under the EU F-Gas Regulation, heard participants in the ATMOsphere Europe 2018 conference yesterday.

“Tackling illegal imports of HFCs remains a priority: the EU F-Gas Regulation applies in all member states,” Bente Tranholm-Schwarz from the European Commission told the event, held at Lago di Garda, Italy from 19-21 November.

“Member states are already making a huge effort [to tackle] illegal trade,” Tranholm-Schwartz said, calling on national governments to keep up the pressure in this regard.

“It’s essential to fight against illegal imports of bulk HFC gases and equipment. Our system will only work if regulation is tight. We’re trying to help EU member states to enforce the regulation by exchanging information and training customs officers,” said Tranholm-Schwartz, who is deputy head of unit at the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Climate Action.

The Commission official said the EU executive was working on an automatic customs control system to monitor HFC trade within the European Union more effectively – a so-called ‘Single Window’ system.

Tackling illegal imports of HFCs remains a priority.
– Bente Tranholm-Schwarz, European Commission

Safety standards for flammable refrigerants

Focusing on the Italian market, Federica Moricci from the Italian National Institute for Environmental Protection & Research (ISPRA) pointed out that “flammability has been a major obstacle to the uptake of hydrocarbons in Italy”.

“Our classification system only rates refrigerants as flammable or non-flammable,” Moricci added.

“Another problem is environmental protection – schools and other public areas cannot use toxic substances without conducting a risk assessment. For flammable substances, local fire brigades can veto their use – that’s another obstacle,” she said.

Davide Sabbadin from Italian NGO Legambiente said Italian Ministerial Decrees that were currently restricting flammable refrigerants in public buildings could be revised.

Sabbadin also expressed fear that hydrocarbons could be disadvantaged in the standards debate. “I think there is a fox in the hen yard,”

“I’d urge the relevant trade associations to make their voices heard in standards discussions. Sometimes it feels like there is a fox in the hen’s yard when it comes to flammability – and the right voices aren’t around the table in the discussion on safety rules,” said Sabbadin, hinting at the impact of the HFO lobby.

Sabbadin called for financial support to be put in place to support the transition to natural refrigerant-based technologies. “We need incentives to promote wider uptake of natural refrigerants. Let’s shape green finance to support the change on the basis of improved efficiency,” he added.

The right voices aren’t always around the table in the discussion on safety rules.
– Davide Sabbadin, Legambiente

Get involved in standards process

Rita Tedesco from the European Environmental Citizens Organisation for Standards (ECOS) – an NGO that defends environmental interests in standards and technical environmental policies – urged participants to get involved and influence the on-going update of international standards for flammable refrigerants.

“Join your national committees, become a partner organisation of CEN-CENELEC, and join Small Business Standards if you are an SME,” Tedesco said.

By Marie Battesti

Nov 21, 2018, 16:55

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