BELGIUM: The European Commission has admitted there is “clear evidence” of illegal HFC imports but has questioned the extent of the problem as reported by stakeholders.
In a new report on the functioning of the EU-wide quota system for HFC under the European F-gas regulation (517/2014), the Commission insists that it is taking the claims seriously with the involvement of OLAF, the European Anti-Fraud Office, and increasing customs seizures.
The Commission report recognises that the illegal trade was created by the high EU prices seen in 2017 and early 2018 and admits that their availability “may also have had an effect” on recent price falls.
However, the Commission questions the extent of the illegal activity as claimed by industry and environmental groups. Last year, the Environmental Investigation Agency put the level of illegal activity at 16% of the legal quota. The EFCTC, the refrigerant producers group, went further, exposing discrepancies between Chinese export stats and EU import data, and estimating that the illegal imports could amount to as much as a third of the legal quota.
“At this moment in time, and based on the data available, it appears that imports outside the quota system are mainly in the form of customs evasion (“smuggling”), since quantities for imports in EUROSTAT and F-gas regulation reporting data match closely,” the Commission says.
Commenting on the discrepancies between Chinese export data and EU import data, the Commission maintains that such discrepancies “are not uncommon” in international trade statistics and are often related to trade routing/re-routing.
“It does not appear feasible on the basis of this data alone to make a sound quantification of the extent of illegal imports and hence their relevance for the price development and Union gas availability,” the report states. “Nonetheless, the Commission is taking these claims very seriously and is working together with industry and the member states to put a stop to such activities.”
The Commission says it will closely continue monitor the market and gas prices going forward, as well as the illegal activities, in particular with next year’s further big phase-down step to 45% of the 2015 baseline. It points to the EU Customs Single Window – Certificate Exchange (EU CSW-CERTEX) project being introduced next year to support these efforts by introducing automatic checks at customs.
Illegal imports a third of the European F-gas quota – 27 June 2020
BELGIUM: The refrigerant manufacturers estimate that the illegal trade in HFC refrigerants in 2018 could have been as high as 34MtCO2e, or a third of the legal European quota. Read more…
EIA calls for end to illegal HFC trade – 9 April 2019
UK: The EIA has called for stronger enforcement by member states and the introduction of a shipment licensing system to counter the illegal European trade in HFC refrigerants. Read more…