Tough talks on HFCs
MEPs and member states are at odds over the timetable for phasing out hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), powerful global warming gases mainly used in refrigerators and air-conditioners. Negotiations between the Parliament, Commission and the Council of Ministers began earlier this month and will continue in November.
HFCs are sometimes called ‘super greenhouse gases’ because of the dangers of their soaring use and their potential to cause global warming. But some companies that use HFCs argue there are no suitable alternatives available.
The European Commission is proposing a freeze from 2015 on the maximum amount of fluorinated gases (the most damaging HFCs, known as F-gases) allowed on the market, followed by a gradual reduction in their use. Under the plan, companies would be given a quantity of free quotas, and have to purchase allowances for use beyond that amount.
Member states want a more lenient approach than that proposed by the Commission, with a slower timetable, and exemptions for certain HFCs. But MEPs want a stricter timeline and fewer exemptions. They also want a ban on F-gases in ‘pre-charged’ equipment – which is sold complete with gas rather than the gas being added later – something opposed by member states. MEPs also want to see the quotas sold rather than given away for free.
A conference on the issue in Brussels last week revealed deep divisions on how ambitious the phase-out of HFCs should be. A French government representative backed the MEPs in their opposition to giving out allowances for free, suggesting the Council of Ministers is far from united on this issue.