The UK should continue to comply with Europe’s F Gas regulations after it leaves the European Union, according to the leading F Gas Register operator Refcom.
The F Gas regulations are already enshrined in UK law so it would make little sense to try and water them down post-Brexit, according to Graeme Fox, senior mechanical engineer at the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA), which manages Refcom.
He was speaking after giving evidence to a special hearing of the government’s Environmental Audit Committee (EAC), which is conducting an inquiry into the UK’s progress on reducing F gas emissions and how leaving the EU will affect future progress and reporting.
He spoke alongside representatives from the Federation of Environmental Trade Associations (FETA) and the Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Industry Board (ACRIB) and all advised against the UK using the Montreal Protocol and its Kigali amendment as an alternative to F Gas after Brexit.
“We are already ahead of the game in the UK because of our adoption of the F Gas regulation,” said Mr Fox. “Using the Kigali amendment as a baseline would be a backward step.”
The committee, which is chaired by Mary Creagh MP, heard that the UK was further ahead than many other EU member states on F Gas phase down and that the process was gathering pace because of the falling availability of many refrigerant gases with high global warming potential (GWP).
“Some of the highest GWP refrigerants have doubled and trebled in price this year as a result of the F Gas phase down process,” said Mr Fox. “While this is great news for the environment, it has also put real pressure on our industry’s skills base. Contractors need to be able to work with alternatives some of which are mildly flammable and many of which are not suitable for retrofitting in existing systems – this means they need to undertake further training.”
There have already been record price rises of up to 60% on high GWP refrigerants R404A and R507A during December ahead of a 37% cut in the amount of HFCs that will be allowed onto the market in 2018. Even some lower GWP alternatives have gone up by as much as 20% due to rising demand ahead of the step change. R410A now costs 30% more as do some R22 service blends.
Mr Fox advised against one suggestion of placing an additional ‘HFC Tax’ on top of these rises to speed up phase down as he said that could encourage a “black market” or some less reputable contractors to take dangerous shortcuts by retrofitting the wrong gases.
However, he did urge the committee to support increased resources for the Environment Agency so it could police the F Gas regime more effectively. The introduction of civil penalties would help, he advised, and this is currently the subject of a public consultation initiated by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).
Refcom has already submitted a detailed response to the consultation following lengthy dialogue with the department earlier this year.
Mr Fox also warned the EAC that the MAC directive, which covers the use of refrigerant gases in vehicles, could be a “huge problem” after Brexit because it is not enshrined in UK law.
“The fact that refrigerant gas is sold through car accessory suppliers undermines everything we are tyring to achieve with the F-gas regulations,” he said.
Mr Fox also confirmed that Refcom, as part of the BESA Group, would remain involved in the EU after Brexit through the umbrella European contractors’ body AREA and would continue to work with the European manufacturers’ association EPEE. This would allow it to remain abreast of all regulatory changes and improvements.
It also simplified the process for checking company registrations earlier this year with the launch of a search facility on its <a href="http://www.refcom.org.uk" target="_blank" rel="noopener">website</a> that allows suppliers to check customers’ credentials by both company name and/or F Gas certificate number. It is also preparing to launch free software licenses to all its registered companies enabling them to comply more easily with log books and record keeping.
As Refcom holds more than 80% of all the company registrations in the UK, this will help the government by making it easier to collate gas usage across the country for reporting and monitoring purposes.
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