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UK Urged to Align with EU Policies on Refrigerants

A recent update on the UK’s transition to low carbon emphasizes the need for authorities to align with or even surpass EU policies on refrigerant usage. Additionally, it highlights the importance of implementing standards to address concerns regarding domestic overheating.

The Climate Change Committee (CCC), the UK’s environmental watchdog, is urging the upcoming national review of the F-Gas Regulation to at least match the reforms introduced by the EU, or ideally, go beyond them. The CCC’s latest report on achieving net zero emissions, presented to parliament, continues to advocate against diverging from the European Commission’s plans for stricter restrictions on the use and availability of HFC refrigerants. Discussions are already underway in European Authorities regarding a revised phasedown schedule.

The existing F-Gas legislation currently applies to both EU member states and the UK, which has incorporated it into domestic law as part of the Brexit Withdrawal process. However, proposals for an even more stringent phasedown of HFC products, currently under review by the European Parliament, will only impact the EU if passed in their current form. Meanwhile, UK authorities are expected to conduct their own review of the legislation, separate from any EU reforms.

Various industry bodies in the HVACR sector have opposed the European Parliament’s proposals, citing challenges in effectively using alternative refrigerants on a large scale within the proposed timeline. These groups argue that UK authorities might choose a different approach to phasedown schedules than those being considered by the EU.

The CCC’s 2023 report on decarbonization progress emphasizes to parliamentarians that the government should at the very least match European reforms, or exceed them, when determining the future of the F-Gas Regulation in the UK. The report also expresses concerns about the absence of a clear legislative timeline for introducing an 85% phasedown of HFC products by 2036, based on a baseline from 2011 to 2013. Although F-Gas emissions in the country have decreased in recent years, they remain higher than levels recorded in the early 2000s. Successfully enforcing the F-Gas Regulation is crucial for the government’s plans to reduce national greenhouse gas emissions by 2035, the CCC states.

The report also raises concerns about the potential increase in direct emissions of F-gases due to plans to expand the use of heat pumps across the country. Currently, most heat pump systems in the domestic market use f-gas refrigerants, according to the CCC.

With the implementation of new EU F-gas legislation is facing a significant delay, with a final decision not expected until September at the earliest. This delay creates a challenge as the rollout of heat pumps, which play a crucial role in decarbonizing heating systems, heavily relies on F-gases. As the majority of heat pumps currently available on the market utilize F-gases as refrigerants, balancing the urgency to transition to low-carbon heating systems with the need to address the environmental impact of these gases becomes a critical consideration. Finding a careful balance between ensuring effective heat pump deployment and reducing reliance on F-gases will be imperative in meeting climate goals while minimizing the carbon footprint of heating systems.

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