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Illegal imports a third of the European F-gas quota

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.

New figures released by the refrigerant manufacturers group, EFCTC, blow a hole in previous European Commission claims that the illegal market was “insignificant”. 

Investigations by European economics consultancy Oxera Consulting revealed a substantial discrepancy of around 19MtCO2e in the data between the amounts of HFC refrigerants registered as leaving China and the imports recorded as entering the EU. The EFCTC insists that this is largely consistent with the figure of 16.3MtCO2e estimated by the Environmental Investigation Agency last year.

In addition, the EFCTC’s investigators looked at the flow of refrigerant from China into countries neighbouring the union. Taking into account the market growths in those countries, the investigators calculated there was an excess of 15MtCO2e, an amount which the EFCTC believes is being smuggled into the EU.

Murli Sukhwani of Chemours and a member of the EFCTCs data and investigation working group, described Oxera Consulting’s figures as “a very big fat number” based on “very rigorous” methodology. 

Tim Vink, Honeywell’s director of regulatory affairs and vice-chair of EFCTC blamed the illegal trade on “a lack of awareness at national level and also inconsistent and unharmonised enforcement” of the F-gas regulation. 

“Low fines and discrepancies between member states in respect of penalties are not helping either, as is the lack of coordination and sharing of data between public entities and agencies,” he added. 

“This black market has had a very corrosive effect on the legitimate supply chain, which consists of thousands of small and medium sized operators who have made substantial investments into the transition to low global potential alternatives, the responsible recovery and recycling and reclamation of HFCs. 

“As a result, many small and medium sized enterprises have seen a dramatic drop in their business. It’s also detrimental to the European Union’s climate objectives.”

From calls to the EFCTC’s action line, passed on to the business investigation agency Kroll, there has been a reported 444 takedowns across 15 e-commerce platforms and evidence of 3,000 tonnes of product incoming illegally into the EU, which translates into 4.7MtCO2e.

Related stories:

German law will combat illegal F-gas trade17 June 2020
GERMANY: The German environment ministry has issued a draft law which seeks to disrupt the illegal trade in HFC refrigerants by ensuring compliance throughout the supply chain. Read more…

Illegal HFC still entering the EU – 15 April 2020
BELGIUM: Corporate investigators insist that HFC refrigerants are still entering the EU illegally, despite improvement in enforcement activities. Read more…

EFCTC calls for further checks to combat illegal trade1 March 2020
BELGIUM: The EFCTC has called for a range of measures to combat illegal refrigerants including random supply and purchase checks, increased customs’ vigilance and heavy penalties for infringements. Read more…

EFCTC introduces illegal refrigerant reporting “hotline” – 19 March 2019
EUROPE: Illegal refrigerant imports and sales activity in Europe can now be easily reported, and in confidence, through a new website established by the refrigerant producers group EFCTC. Read more…

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