EU breaks impasse on greenhouse gas

Talks in Brussels on industry's continued use of potent fluorinated greenhouse gases have finally reached an agreement.

The use of fluorinated gases is already regulated but they are still used in a range of products from fridges and the air conditioning units of cars to household appliances and even shoes.

The European Parliament and the Council of Ministers had been unable to agree on how the gases should best be regulated.

The main sticking point had been over individual member states wishing to impose tighter restrictions than those adopted by the EU.

Parliament had argued that those who had stricter measures already in place within their own borders, such as Austria and Denmark, should be allowed to retain them but the ministers argued this would disrupt the internal market unless a cut off date was set by which time the member states would have to fall in line with the rest of Europe.

This would place those countries in the position of having to weaken their own environmental laws to ensure wider protection was adopted by their neighbours.

An agreement was, however, hammered out at a late night conciliation meeting on Tuesday, January 31 with MEPs accepting the cut off date of 2012 but saying there must be room for future revision if there are further developments in the area.

“With this agreement we have reached a good balance between environmental protection and the proper functioning of the single market”, said rapporteur Avril Doyle.

“There is no reduction in the standards we wanted. Our agreement allows some member states to maintain stricter measures and others to introduce such measures but under precise circumstances.”

The upshot of the horse trading will be tighter regulation of fluorinated greenhouse gases for most of Europe and the mandatory labelling system of all goods containing them.

A clearly visible indelible label must list the chemical names of these gases and the quantity contained, and stating that they are covered by the Kyoto protocol.

Instruction manuals accompanying the appliances must also indicate the potential impact of the gases on climate temperature.

These gases can, depending on their chemical make-up, remain in the atmosphere for many years, or even centuries or millennia in some cases.

Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas told reporter the agreement was a clear and positive political signal that Europe was still committed to the fight against climate change.

By Sam Bond

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