UK failing to address ‘dangerous’ F-gas emissions, MPs say

MPs have today (25 April) called on policymakers and businesses to ramp up efforts to remove fluorinated gases (F-gases) from the atmosphere to bend the curve of global temperature rises.

F-gases are found in everyday items such as inhalers, fridges and air conditioning units. In 2015, the EU introduced a phased market-based quota system to reduce their availability and drive take-up alternatives.

But MPs are concerned that Brexit could raise significant challenges for the UK’s F-gas regime. The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) is calling on the Government to enforce existing F-gas regulations and use its purchasing power to promote products with a lower global warming potential (GWP).

EAC Chair Mary Creagh MP said: “Global warming is a clear and present danger and the UK should be doing all it can to bend the curve of global temperature rises.

“At present, the Government is failing to enforce the regulations surrounding F-gas emissions, particularly on car air conditioning units.”

HFC phase-out

It is thought that global temperature rises could be reduce by half a degree this century is all countries met their F-gas reduction targets.

Curbing their use is achievable because many of the most widely used F-gases – hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), used primarily as refrigerants and propellants, can be replaced by less-emitting alternatives. Last November, the UK became one of the first nations to complete ratification of the Kigali amendment to reduce HFCs by 85% between 2019 and 2036.

MPs claim that the NHS remains reliant on F-gas fuelled inhalers despite less damaging alternatives being available and widely used in other European countries. The EAC has called on the NHS and medical companies to reduce the use of these inhalers, establish a recycling system for them, and legislate to avoid them going to landfill.

Creagh added: “The Government, the NHS, manufacturers and medical companies should be doing much more to address F-gas emissions. International cooperation on removing F-gas emissions could have hugely beneficial consequences for future generations.”

Cooling off

There are notable examples of retailers committing to the phase out F-gases. Unilever has this week released the findings of six-month trial in the Netherlands, which explored the viability of using a zero-emissions transport refrigeration unit. Between June and December 2017, Unilever used a refrigeration truck powered by liquid nitrogen to collect and deliver Ben & Jerry’s and Ola ice cream across the Netherlands.

Tesco could be set to reduce its carbon footprint by 40% – well above the 26.5% reduction it is targeting against a 2006 baseline – through the installation of low GWP refrigerants across 1,200 UK stores.

Elsewhere, German discount supermarket group Aldi has invested £20m in natural refrigerants which will be installed across all of its UK stores to reduce its environmental impact. The transition to CO2 refrigeration units will see Aldi’s potential refrigerant gas carbon emissions cut by 99%.

Sainsbury’s is another UK supermarket seeking to capture energy savings through new cooling systems. It is using F1-inspired technology from William Advanced Engineering to steer cold air directly back down fridge units to stop it from spilling out onto the aisles.

George Ogleby

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