Regulation (EU) No 517/2014 on fluorinated greenhouse gases
Summary of Open Public Consultation responses
An open public consultation (OPC) was held to gather views on the existing Regulation (EU) No 517/2014 on fluorinated greenhouse gases (hereafter referred to as FGR), as well as the development and assessment of policy options for the review of the FGR. The OPC was launched on 15 September 2020 and closed on 29 December 2020.
In total, the OPC received 241 responses. This was comprised of: individual company/business organisations (124, 51.5%), business associations (44, 18.3%), EU citizens (28, 11.6%), non-governmental organisations (NGOs) (14, 5.8%), public authorities (8, 3.3%), academic/research institutions (6, 2.5%), consumer organisations (3, 1.2%), one respondent identifying as a trade union (0.4%) and several who identified as ‘other’
(13, 5.4%). Within this, 122 respondents described themselves as SMEs (i.e. with <250 employees). Respondents were concentrated in north-west Europe, with the highest number of responses from Belgium (54, 22.4%), followed by Germany (32, 13.3%) and France (31, 12.9%). There were no responses from nine EU member states
Respondents noted they were involved in different F-gas sectors and activities. Respondents were most commonly involved in stationary refrigeration/air conditioning (AC) (114, 27.0%), followed by transport refrigeration (64, 15.1%), and mobile AC (50, 11.8%). Respondents were mostly involved in the following activities: manufacture/trade/sale of gases (86, 35.7%), training and certification (83, 34.4%), and manufacture/trade/sale of equipment with F-gas alternatives (79, 32.8%).
Part 1 – Awareness of F-Gases
Overall, respondents were very well informed about F-gases and relevant legislation. For all sub-options the most common answer was ‘Very well informed’ with the exception of international F-gas policies. Somewhat unsurprisingly, respondents considered they were most well informed about the impact of F-Gases on climate change. The respondents' awareness of the different F-gas measures under the FGR was also very high, with the majority of respondents answering ‘Very familiar’ for all F-gas related measures.
Part 2 - General views on the F-gas Regulation
There was an overwhelming response that the FGR has had a positive or very positive impact on its objectives. The FGR was seen as having the most positive impact on the following objectives: to contribute towards meeting the EU’s climate targets and to facilitate the agreement of a phase down under the Montreal Protocol, but the FGR also had a positive impact on stimulating innovation and reducing high GWP F-gases according to the respondents. This was corroborated by responses to other questions, where the majority of respondents signalled they felt the FGR has been either effective or very effective with respect to its objectives, and that the FGR had contributed (strongly) to related EU or international climate objectives (e.g. Montreal Protocol Kigali Amendment, Paris Agreement, Green Deal). As for the single measures of the Regulation, a majority of stakeholders found all of them effective regarding the objectives, with the exception of collection of emissions data. The most effective measures seen as most effective included containment, recovery and responsibility schemes, training and certification and restrictions on use and equipment.
Respondents felt illegal imports were the most serious challenge to FGR implementation, followed by unjustified barriers in safety standards and codes and the misuse of the quota system. In contrast, the covid-19 pandemic was seen as less of a challenge by most respondents (however, on this question different stakeholders expressed diverging views). Respondents had mixed opinions on the effectiveness of different measures in preventing illegal activities. Overall, a majority tended to think measures taken to date have not been effective enough and penalties (by Member States) were seen as the least effective. Respondents were split on the effectiveness of customs controls and market surveillance. Reporting and verification was seen as more effective than the other relevant measures.
In terms of other environmental risks, a majority of respondents felt the FGR would not lead to an increased accumulation of persistent chemicals in the environment. That said, a minority did consider this an important risk (56 respondents answered that it would lead to an increase, 23.2%). In particular, NGOs/research institutions and EU citizen respondents tended expressed their concerns on this issue.
Respondents thought overall that the costs of the different FGR measures were not excessively high, but also not marginal. By way of exception, labelling was seen as having only marginal costs, while training and certification and the quota system were seen as comparatively more expensive measures than the others. A majority of stakeholders agreed for every individual measure that the costs were justified to achieve the objectives, i.e. that the benefits of action had outweighed the costs. Open text responses highlighted that the key costs of measures under the FGR were primarily centred around: acquiring authorisations and quotas by transfer, reporting, increased prices of refrigerants, certification requirements, and R&D activities.
In addition, respondents thought the FGR had positively or very positively impacted better stewardship of F-gases by equipment operators, F-gas policies by other countries, and EU (policy) credibility in this area. The overall sentiment regarding the impact of FGR on EU competitiveness and trade with third countries was more neutral, with both positive and negative views expressed.
About half of the respondents felt the FGR does cover all relevant sectors and sub-sectors using F-gases, but the other half, in particular the NGOs and public authorities, thought it did not, or could not say. These respondents pointed to the need for stricter requirements for certain sectors such as medical applications, military applications, sulphur hexafluoride (SF6), or transport or the need of controlling (some of) FGR Annex II gases.
Respondents felt that, in general, the FGR had been flexible enough to respond to external factors such as delays in technological developments and/or market disruptions, but not flexible enough to respond to new or emerging issues.
Respondents felt the FGR was (either somewhat or fully) coherent with relevant EU and international polices. That said, some respondents felt the FGR was not completely coherent with (in this order) customs legislation, the WEEE Directive and other waste legislation, and the Eco-design Directive. The majority of respondents also thought the FGR was generally clear (average response was 2.4 on a scale of 1 (fully agree) to 5 (fully disagree)) and consistent (averaged response was 2.6).
EU added value
The majority of respondents felt that the FGR has added value compared to what could have been delivered at national level. Respondents indicated a clear level of agreement that the FGR has increased the level of policy ambition across the EU (average response was 2.2 on a scale of 1 to 5) and, to a lesser extent, that the FGR has levelled the playing field across the EU (average response was 2.7). However, respondents were neutral overall as to whether it had improved the consistency of relevant safety standards and codes across the EU (average response was 3.0).
Part 3 - Specialised views on policy options
Overall, respondents agreed that all three review objectives posed to them in the survey were relevant. The review objective Improving implementation and enforcement, was seen as the most relevant with an average response of 1.6 (on a scale of 1 to 5). This was followed by the objective Ensure EU long-term compliance with Montreal Protocol (with an average response of 1.8). Some respondents, mostly from industry, did not see the third objective Raise ambition in light of the Green Deal and technological progress, as important as the other objectives, with a slightly lower level of overall agreement (an average response of 2.2). Most respondents felt the objectives of the F-gas Regulation and the proposed policy options could not be better achieved by action taken at the Member State level.
Measures to improve implementation and enforcement
Overall, respondents saw all the new policy measures proposed in the survey as important for improving implementation and enforcement. The two measures that were seen as most important (average response of 1.7 on a scale of 1 to 5) were: training of technicians on F-gas alternatives and strengthen the role of customs and facilitate the link with the EU Single Window Environment. The measure to limit the market players to legitimate participants was seen as slightly less important (average response of 2.3). However, if limiting the respondents to those companies involved in the trade of HFCs, the importance attached to addressing this issue was similarly high (1.8).
Potential impacts of policy options
Respondents mostly agreed that emission savings would result from all three of the proposed general policy options: increasing HFC phase-down ambition in line with technological development, prohibit the use of HFCs in applications where they are no longer needed, and prohibit the use of other F-gases (i.e. SF6, PFCs etc.) in applications where these gases are no longer needed.
Administrative costs: Overall, a majority of respondents thought the policy options would cause increases in administrative costs, with the exception of three policy options. Those with little impact on costs were: add flexibility to align with future Montreal Protocol decisions, remove some exemptions and thresholds not foreseen by the Montreal Protocol, and limit the market players to legitimate participants. Increases were expected mostly for the options of more comprehensive monitoring, strengthen obligations to prevent illegal trade, increase phase-down ambition and technicians training on non-Fgas alternatives. Generally, higher costs were more often expected by industrial stakeholders compared to other stakeholders. Many respondents pointed out that it is difficult to estimate what expected administrative costs might be.
Operational costs: Regarding operational costs, respondents overall felt, for most options, that the policy options would ‘increase’ operational costs, with the exception of three policy options. These options with little impact on costs were: add flexibility to align with future Montreal Protocol decisions, remove some exemptions and thresholds not foreseen by the Montreal Protocol, and detailed rules for customs and surveillance authority. Conversely, most stakeholders saw the largest impact on operational costs for the options increase phase-down ambition, followed by technicians training on non F-gas alternatives, adding new phase-down steps beyond 2030, more comprehensive monitoring and a separate production phase-down. The provided open text responses linked increased operational costs to deploying alternatives, including for SF6, as well as increased training requirements and increased R & D expenditures.
Other impacts: Overall respondents thought all the policy options would have (either a slight or significant) impact in the various ways outlined in the survey
. The majority of respondents felt the policy options would most significantly impact R&D and innovation, EU competitiveness, trade with non-EU countries and consumer prices. In contrast, respondents felt public health and safety would show the smallest effect (receiving most ‘No effect’ responses).
Many stakeholders expected an increase in R&D and a higher EU competitiveness, not least in the field of SF6 alternative technologies. A concern expressed, in particular for the cooling market, was that non-EU markets were not mature enough to absorb alternative technologies, so that EU companies would not be able to fully exploit their first mover advantage and may have to design different products for different markets. There were differing opinions on the impact on SMEs as some expected higher staff and training costs due to the more pressing need for skilled personnel, while others increased business opportunities for providers of green technologies. Higher end-user costs could result from the flammability of alternative refrigerants in the cooling sector and from using more costly alternatives in energy transmission.
Other comments made
General open text responses from respondents considered the main benefits of the FGR to be its effectiveness in reducing emissions (11 respondents) and incentivising innovation and the development of sustainable alternatives (6 respondents). However, the long-term sustainability of some alternatives was viewed by others to be the greatest challenge (7 respondents). Looking ahead, training programmes were considered to be important (12 respondents) as well as ensuring coherence and harmonisation with other EU and international legislation, including how the F-gas is enforced across Member States (35 respondents) to ensure a level-playing field in the EU.