EU and US to cooperate in curbing car air conditioning emissions

Europe and America are to harmonise testing and engineering standards to curb emissions of greenhouse gases from car mobile air conditioning (MAC) systems, the European Commission announced today.

The move will help to limit the release of the refrigerant HFC 134a, a fluorinated greenhouse gas used in MAC systems.

Although only accounting for 2% of European greenhouse gas emissions, fluorinated greenhouse gases are extremely long-lived pollutants with a global warming effect thousands of times greater than carbon dioxide.

Earlier this year, the EU decided to set limits on the leakage of the refrigerant from cars sold in Europe after 2008, as well as phasing its use out completely from all new cars. A cross-Atlantic harmonisation of standards is a step towards fulfilling these commitments.

Günter Verheugen, Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for enterprise and industry policy, said: “On 31 January the EU agreed to phase out the emissions of refrigerant greenhouse gases from mobile air conditioning systems until 2017. Our intention to harmonize global standards to limit emissions is part of our commitment to the fight against climate change.”

The agreement to harmonise standards was announced jointly by the European Commission, in cooperation with the US EPA Mobile Air Conditioning Climate Protection Partnership and the California Air Resources Board, at the 2006 Mobile Air Conditioning Summit in Saalfelden, Austria.

“The California Air Resources Board (CARB) has worked closely with the automotive community in crafting standards that will reduce refrigerant emissions, increase fuel efficiency, and improve vehicle reliability. We are proud that California can join with the European Commission and others in applauding the global standard that will certify the environmental performance of vehicle air conditioning”, said Alberto Ayala, Manager, Emissions Control Technology Section of CARB.

As part of its drive to meet Kyoto targets, the EU also aims to curb emissions of other fluorinated greenhouse gases, including hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs) and sulphur hexafluoride (SF6). Sulphur hexafluoride, for example, has a global warming potential 23,900 times that of carbon dioxide.

With the combined measures, including the MAC harmonisation scheme, the European Commission hopes to reduce fluorinated gas emissions by more than 20% from 1995 levels by 2012. If no measures were taken, emissions would double by 2010 from 1995 levels, the Commission estimates.

By Goska Romanowicz

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