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A flourishing black market in Europe

There is a flourishing black market in Europe.

Run by criminal organisations, it is disguised, dangerous and damaging. This black market is for smuggled refrigerant gases. The gases in question are called HFCs, short for Hydrofluorocarbons. HFCs are widely used in refrigerators, air conditioning systems, aerosols and fire extinguishers.

Since 2015, HFCs are being phased down in Europe while suitable alternatives are being developed and deployed. HFCs represent a small percentage of total greenhouse gases, however most countries in the world have committed to reducing the use of high GWP HFCs to minimise their climate impact.

The EU has committed to this phase down through a managed quota system within the F-gas regulation, which entered into force in 2015. By 2030, the total HFC GWP will be reduced by nearly 80% in Europe.

But the quota is being undermined by criminal organisations. They illegally import HFCs into many countries in Europe. This means that more HFCs are being used than allowed by law.

This works directly against the regulation’s climate objective. It also compromises efforts to replace HFCs with better alternatives and undermines the EU’s efforts to become carbon neutral by 2050.

In 2018 and 2019 combined, this black market could have had an impact of up to 73 million CO2eqT. This is equivalent to the yearly climate impact of more than 55 million cars – one-fifth of all the cars on EU roads. With a further quota reduction in 2021, a large amount of HFCs will be taken off the legitimate market, creating new opportunities for smugglers to fill the gap. In a worst-case scenario where demand for HFCs were to stay around the same level after the 2021 phase-down and enforcement were not to improve, this large black market could double in size.

To avoid putting our climate goals at risk, we need to eradicate the black market for HFCs.

How do we achieve this? By:

  • Identifying where illegal HFCs come from
  • Understanding who benefits from these illegal import
  • Upholding the law
  • Supporting those who enforce the law