Fluorinated gases are extremely powerful and long lived greenhouse gases used in refrigeration, air conditioning, fire-fighting and various industrial processes. The legislation agreed this week includes a Directive dealing with their use in air-conditioning systems in vehicles and a regulation tackling stationary applications.

“The legislation agreed today is another element in the framework we are building to curb climate change and to implement the Kyoto Protocol,” said Environment Commissioner, Margot Wallstrom. “It is an important element because F-gases have huge global warming potential – in some cases almost 24,000 times that of carbon dioxide. By agreeing on this legislation, Member States have once again taken action to fight climate change.”

The gases covered are hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs) and sulphur hexafluoride (SF6).

By volume, F-gases account for 2% of total EU greenhouse gas emissions. However, their global warming potential is high and many of them have long atmospheric lifetimes. SF6, for example, has a global warming potential that is 23,900 times that of carbon dioxide.

The Commission estimates that, if no measures were taken, emissions of F-gases would increase from 65.2 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent in 1995, to 98 million tonnes in 2010. With the measures agreed this week, they will be reduced by more than 20 million tonnes per year.

The Directive will phase out HFC 134a, the currently used refrigerant in vehicle air conditioning systems, from 2011 onward for new vehicle models and from 2017 for all new vehicles.

The regulation applies to all stationary applications of F-gases. It will strengthen the monitoring and reporting of their emissions, introduce labelling of products and equipment so that consumers can make informed choices, and set up EU-wide minimum standards for training and certification of personnel.

The final adoption, following a second reading in the European Parliament next year, is expected towards the end of 2005. Member States will then have 18 months to transpose the Directive.

By David Hopkins

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