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Timmermans calls for F-gas backing

EUROPE: European Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans has pleaded with MEPs not to chain themselves to the past and to back the F-gas revision proposals in tomorrow’s European parliamentary vote.

Facing strong opposition led by Central and Eastern European member states, Timmermans implored MEPs at today’s plenary debate: “It’s fundamental that we remain united in the fight against climate change.”

A number of new amendments on the table which seek to delay the HFC phase down and product bans have been backed by large parts of the air conditioning, refrigeration and heat pump industry concerned at the speed of transition. 

Czechia MEP Ondřej Knotek warned that the proposals would undermine further sustainability and could put at risk meeting the goals of the RepowerEU targets but indicated they would support the recently tabled amendments. In particular, he was keen to see the continued availability of spare parts, the supply of which could be banned under the current proposals. 

“We definitely do not want to force the public to buy new devices before the end of the given life of their currently used product,” he said. 

Italian MEP Danilo Oscar Lancini said that the proposals would lead to a significant shrinking of the turnover of leading Italian companies, would compromise jobs in Europe and shift investment outside the EU.

“This text is negative for the environment because it also damages the RepowerEU objectives and slows down decarbonisation and fossil fuel independence,” he insisted. “And in some sectors banning F-gas equipment, even if it has low global warming potential is not possible at pace, because some of the equipment which use F-gas cannot use other sources due to a lack of technological innovation or because it is potentially dangerous or worse from an environmental point of view.”

He added that the proposals were a “mistaken approach” to safeguarding the environment, would damage the competitiveness of European companies and subject them to outside competition. 

German interests

Polish MEP Anna Zalewska was another concerned at the speed of transition. “This will upset our energy efficiency and will translate into bankruptcy of many SMEs and simply put heat pumps will be so expensive that they will be unavailable on the market.

“So we need some more time we need to show trends and alternatives and show how much they would cost. We’re not here to cater to some German interests,” she added.

Another MEP called the proposals unrealistic, naive, and echoed accusations of others that the proposals were benefiting the interests of German companies.

Frans Timmermans: “It’s fundamental that we remain united”

Swedish MEP Emma Wiesner of the Renew Europe Group attempted a more balanced approach. Accepting that F-gases needed to be phased out, she acknowledged that the EU risked “shooting themselves in the foot” if it was done too quickly by hindering electrification of the economy. 

“If we do what the right side want we forget about climate policy and do nothing. If we do what the Green Party would like in their dream world would be to phase everything out overnight and give nobody a chance to replace these gases in time. So we have to have a realistic environmental policy that gets things done and has two things in mind at the same time. We have to phase out F-gases but we have to do it with realistic alternatives.”

The proposals received strong backing from Danish MEP Nikolaj Villumsen. He claimed that everyone was aware of the contribution of F-gases to EU emissions and that the technology to replace them already existed. 

“I would therefore like to ask my friends, my colleagues on the right wing. Why are you trying to punish those innovative companies that have developed the needed green technologies?,” he enquired. “Why are you gambling with our future to protect technologies of the past instead of creating green jobs for the future?”

Extra quota

In introducing the debate, environment committee rapporteur Bas Eickhout, had explained that concerns over heat pumps had been taken into account by providing “extra space” in the quota system until 2030. “There is also a very clear check for the commission to make sure that indeed we are still reaching the targets of RepowerEU,” he said. “And if there are issues with quota then the commission will also make sure that they will intervene and create more quota where necessary.”

Concluding, Frans Timmermans said that he recognised that the timing of some requirements has been the subject of much discussion. “I note that several amendments seem to think it is better to delay these dates,” he said, “but for heat pumps, this comes at a time where we need to increase deployment rapidly to meet our RepowerEU 2030 climate goals. The commission is well aware of this and included heat pumps as a strategic sector in the net zero industry act.”

Referring to recent news of two of the world’s biggest new heat pump factories being built in Eastern Europe, he said: “We need to invest now in the right manufacturing not the obsolete ones. Technologies exist and by asking to make the shift early on, we create a competitive advantage for our industry, not a disadvantage.”

Related stories:

F-gas amendments flood in as MEPs prepare to vote28 March 2023
EUROPE: As the European Parliament prepares to vote on revisions to the F-gas regulations, dozens of new last-minute amendments have been tabled by MEPs. Read more…

Industry offers counter F-gas proposals – 22 March 2023
EUROPE: Leading groups representing the HVAC, refrigeration and foam insulation sectors are calling on the European Parliament to take a practical approach in the upcoming vote on the F-gas revision. Read more…

Scientists back propane in heat pumps – 18 March 2023
SWEDEN: More than 40 scientists from across Europe have signed a position statement backing what they say is the proven superior efficiencies of hydrocarbon refrigerants in heat pumps. Read more…

German groups warn of refrigeration “extinction” – 9 March 2023
GERMANY: Industry groups are pleading with their members and their customers to urgently draw the attention of politicians to the “major problems” posed by the F-gas revision and PFAS proposals. Read more…

F-gas concessions fail to pacify manufacturers – 2 March 2023
EUROPE: The European Parliament’s environment committee (ENVI) has relaxed some of the equipment bans proposed in the EC’s F-gas revision but not enough to dispel industry concerns. Read more…

“Pause for thought,” says EPEE – 1 March 2023
BELGIUM: EPEE has urged the European Parliament to pause for thought before pressing ahead with the F-gas bans voted for by its environment committee. Read more…

Enviro committee backs “ambitious” F-gas revision – 1 March 2023
EUROPE: The European Parliament’s Environment Committee has today agreed to an “ambitious” revision of the F-gas regulation (517/2014) despite industry concerns that the proposals are unrealistic and jeopardise climate targets. Read more…

Euro vote a major setback for heat pumps – 1 March 2023
BELGIUM: The European Heat Pump Association (EHPA) has described today’s F-gas vote as a major setback for heat pumps in Europe. Read more…

EIA applauds positive F-gas vote – 1 March 2023
UK: Green group the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) has applauded the “urgently needed” F-gas bans voted on today by the European Parliament’s Environment Committee (ENVI). Read more…

Euro industry calls for “realistic” F-gas vote – 27 February 2023
EUROPE: Twelve leading associations and groups active in the European HVACR market have called on the European Parliament’s environment committee to reject amendments which would ban F-gases. Read more…

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