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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.

According to data from 2018 when the quota was last tightened, this black market could impact of up to 34 million CO2eqT. This would be the same as adding 25 million cars to EU roads – that’s all the cars in Spain. If the global warming potential of illegal HFCs were measured alongside those of EU Member States, the black market would be the EU’s 20th largest CO2 emitter (above the yearly emissions of countries including Croatia, Estonia and Cyprus.). And when the quota is next tightened in 2021, this could get even worse if this problem is not resolved.

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