Author: Jean Clarke, Environment Inspectorate, Department of Environment, Community and Local Government
Regulation 842 of 2006 – or, as it is commonly known, the F Gas Regulation – was published in 2006, although the majority of its provisions did not come into force until 2007. The objective of the Regulation was to contain, prevent and thereby reduce emissions of the fluorinated greenhouse gases (F gases) covered by the Kyoto Protocol.
F gases are defined in the Regulation to mean hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs) and sulphur hexafluoride (SF6), as listed in Annex 1 of the Regulations. The most commonly used of these gases are HFCs, which have largely replaced ozone-depleting substances (ODS) as they are used in similar applications (primarily in refrigeration, air conditioning and heat pumps) but have no ozone-depleting potential.
Unfortunately, however, many F gases have high global warming potential, which is a problem that now needs to be addressed. The other gases are used in more specialist applications, e.g. PFCs in semiconductor manufacturing and aluminium manufacture and also SF6, which is mainly used for the insulation of electrical switchgear.
The existing Regulation has focused on the containment of emissions from equipment, as opposed to large-scale bans or ‘phase down’ of gases, although there were a small number of bans provided for under Article 9 and Annex II. It introduced mandatory leak-checking of equipment within certain thresholds and also established a certification regime to ensure that leak checking, recovery and destruction of F gases is carried out by appropriately qualified personnel and certified companies.
[caption id="attachment_7264" align="alignright" width="178"] Fig 1: A typical F gas-using appliance[/caption]
It should also be noted that the onus is on the end user or the operator to comply with the Regulations that have been implemented in Ireland under the Fluorinated Greenhouse Gas Regulations. The Environmental Protection Agency is the competent authority for the implementation of these Regulations.
Article 10 of the Regulation required that a review be carried out on the progress of implementing the Regulation and that the Commission would publish a report on its findings. The Commission engaged consultants headed by OKO Recherché to carry out a preparatory background study and, based on the findings, the Commission published its report on the application, effects and adequacy of the Regulation (Com (2011) final, 26.9.2011).
The report concluded that full implementation of the Regulation and the MAC Directive (which controls the use of F gases in mobile air conditioning systems and introduces prohibitions from certain dates) would at best stabilise F gas emissions. This is not enough to achieve the EU objective to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 80-95 per cent by 2050, as required by the Low Carbon Roadmap.
Further action is needed in the context of the above objectives and the growing availability of low or zero global-warming alternative substances. There are also proposals to try to achieve a global phase down of HFCs under the regime of the Montreal Protocol (the global agreement on phase out of ODS).
The Commission published its proposal for a revised F gas regulation in November 2012 along with an impact assessment. The negotiations on the dossier commenced during the Irish Presidency of the Council of the European Union in 2013.
As a co-decision Regulation, the proposal is also being discussed in the European Parliament. The Commission proposal aims to build on the existing Regulation and has a strong emphasis on the climate impact of F gases. The proposal contains 24 articles and eight annexes, compared to 15 articles and two annexes in the existing Regulation. Some key new provisions of the proposal include: