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UK progress on reducing F-Gas emissions inquiry launched

13 October 2017

The Environmental Audit Committee launch an inquiry into the UK's progress on reducing fluorinated gas (F-gas) emissions, and the impact leaving the EU will have on progress and reporting on reducing these harmful greenhouse gases in the future.

Mary Creagh, Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, said:

"F-gases make up a small proportion of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions, but their global warming potential is 23,000 times greater than carbon dioxide.

"The UK’s F-Gas reduction targets are set and monitored by the EU. With Brexit looming, businesses need clarity on how the UK will reduce F-gas emissions and on who will ensure the Government meets its targets."

What are F-gases and why do they Matter?

Fluorinated gases ('F-gases') are man-made artificial gases, the majority of which are hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).  Since the late 1980s they have been used to replace chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in a myriad of applications, such as refrigeration and aerosols, because it was discovered that CFCs were depleting the ozone layer. 

However, though F-gases do not deplete the ozone layer it was realised that they are greenhouse gases (GHGs) contributing to climate change.  Though small in quantity -they currently represent 3% of all UK GHG emissions, they can remain in the atmosphere for hundreds of years and have a global warming potential 23,000 times that of Carbon Dioxide.

How are the use of F-gases Governed?

UK policy is currently framed by EU law.  The EU 2015 F-gas Regulation includes targets to reduce HFC use and overall HFC emissions by 2030 and a requirement for companies to register with the EU HFC Registry.  The UK is also party to the UN’s Montreal Protocol.  An amendment to the Protocol – the Kigali Amendment, will see a commitment by developed countries to cut HFC use by 2036 and is due to come into force in 2019. 

This could be seen as a ‘back stop’ if the UK operates outside of the EU’s regulatory regime.  UK withdrawal from the EU raises several issues.  Firstly, because the UK is party to the Montreal Protocol as an individual state and as part of the EU it may be unclear if it is bound by the whole (or part) of the agreement as the UK leaves.  Secondly, as environmental policy is a devolved matter there is potential for policy divergence on F-gases.

UK Progress on F-gas Reduction and the Impact of the UK Leaving the EU

Between 1997 and 2001 action was taken and F-gas emissions fell significantly.  However, since 2001 F-gas emissions have started rising again, particularly as a result of increasing use in air conditioning and refrigeration appliances.

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) monitors progress on reducing F-gas emissions.  Its latest analysis suggests that UK emissions have not fallen at the rate expected, though their modelling suggests that if the EU F-gas Regulation works as intended the UK is still in line with targets.

The Committee invites submissions on some or all of the questions below:

Transposition

  • What action does the Government need to take to ensure that the EU's 2015 F-gas Regulation is fully incorporated into UK law?
  • Should the UK go beyond EU regulatory minimums and develop stronger F-gas legislation?
  • What role has the EU played in ensuring policy coherence across the UK on regulating F-gases and how should this be managed during and after the UK leaves the EU?

Administrative, Policy and Regulatory Implications of EU Withdrawal

  • After leaving the EU, which UK body should have oversight of adherence to F-gas legislation and will it be adequately resourced to ensure compliance?
  • Will the UK need to create new infrastructure to replicate relevant EU institutions, expertise and research that focus on reducing F-gas emissions?
  • After leaving the EU, would relying on the Montreal Protocol alone lower UK ambitions to reduce F-gas emissions and is the UK’s enforcement regime strong enough to ensure compliance?
  • As the UK leaves the EU, how will the Government ensure certainty regarding its obligations to the Montreal Protocol as an individual signatory outside of the EU bloc?
  • How will UK businesses and consumers be affected?

Progress on Reducing F-gas Emissions

  • Is the Government doing enough to reduce F-gases?
  • Are there blockers preventing adoption of existing alternatives to F-gases and is there potential to develop new cost-effective replacements?
  • What policies should the Government bring forward to reduce F-gas emissions?

Deadline for submissions

We are keen to inform the Government’s thinking on this issue as soon as possible. For this reason we are asking for submissions by 12pm on 6 November 2017. The word limit is 3,000 words. Later submissions will be accepted, but may be too late to inform the first oral evidence hearing. Please send written submissions using the form on the inquiry page.

The Committee values diversity and seeks to ensure this where possible. We encourage members of underrepresented groups to submit written evidence. We aim to have diverse panels of Select Committee witnesses and ask organisations to bear this in mind if asked to appear.

Further information

Image: CC0 Creative Commons

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