Burning Issue

Space Air's Mike Nankivell, through various industry association activities as well a vested interest, has been closely involved with the development of the F-Gas Regulation, so we thought it would be interesting to obtain his views on the recent vote in relation to the EC Environmental Committee's recommended amendments.

"The UK refrigeration and air conditioning industries deserve a pat on the back for playing their part in persuading our UK MEPs to reject recently proposed amendments to the F-Gas Regulation. According to voting figures, of the 25 European Community Member States, the UK represented the highest proportion of MEPs opposed to the amendments (91%) and this, in all probability, was in response to the volume of correspondence they received from our industry prior to the vote."

Of course the proposed amendments were ridiculous, we know that, but the no doubt, well-meaning but ill-informed, MEPs who made them clearly did not. As a result, our industries, throughout Europe , were placed in jeopardy. We were faced with the very real danger, that without any appreciation of the immediate and longer-term implications, MEPs could have made a very serious and damaging misjudgement.

Why? Well first we need to be clear what the aims of the F-Gas Regulation are: The F-Gas Regulation has been stuttering along its prevaricated course for some considerable time – incidentally, it appears to have been long forgotten that it was actually the refrigeration and air conditioning industries, through EUCRAR, which first proposed that legislation be developed to limit emissions of F-gases, back in 2000.

The Regulation is and always has intended to address containment, recovery, reporting, training and certification and review, also labeling, control of use and placing on the market. Put simply, these aims will achieve a common management policy throughout Europe and controllable, measurable reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, including HFCs as used in the fields of refrigeration, heat pumps and air conditioning. This has already been well established in the Netherlands , which has operated a successful programme for containment of refrigerant gases since 1991.

However, so-called environmentalists and 'green' MEPs have been campaigning for the Regulation to be fundamentally diverted from its original aims towards an outright ban on HFCs. They also sought to have the legal base for the Regulation changed so that individual member states would be free to introduce their own, more stringent restrictions. Either way, had they been successful, it could have had catastrophic consequences for the refrigeration and air conditioning industry, everyone connected with the built environment, the European economy but more importantly, our environment.

It seems we have effectively argued the case against premature bans on HFCs and beaten the campaign for a single legal base that will prevent Member States going "gung-ho" with their own legislation. So have we heard the last of it? Of course not!

The burning issue has to be, what must we do to defend ourselves against continued attacks on our industry and in particular, the sustainability of HFC refrigerants, which for the time being, are the only really safe, stable and efficient solution for the vast majority of commercial and residential refrigeration and air conditioning applications?

EPEE (the European Partnership for Energy and the Environment) has done a great job lobbying on our behalf, but we must do more to support this effort.

I know it's a cliche, but I believe we need to be more proactive, (less reactive). We must promote the very significant technological and environmental advances our industry has made in recent years, well ahead of any legislation. We must be more assertive in challenging the statistics that suggest that the growth in demand and necessity for refrigeration and air conditioning is a threat deserving of the criticism it receives.

We must clarify why alternative, natural refrigerants, whilst acceptable for some applications, do not provide the 'silver bullet' that is sought. We must create a proper understanding of the potential economical and environmental damage that politicians and "environmentalists" can cause by attacking the refrigeration and air conditioning industries. We must protect the enormous foreign investment from which our industries and the European economy benefit. We must achieve political endorsement that the technology exists, using HFC's that, supported rather than questioned, is helping Member States achieve their carbon emission reductions. I hope the F-Gas Regulation can now be finalised quickly, without any more idiotic amendment proposals. Then, for the sake of our environment, focus of attention should turn to energy efficiency, not refrigerant choice.

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