Call for EU clamp-down on ozone depleters

Swedish ministers call on European Commission to deter use of HCFCs in new equipment

The Swedish government has put pressure on the European Commission to propose strict controls on remaining uses of ozone-depleting substances. Sweden's environment and industry ministers have called on their opposite numbers in the Commission to ensure that hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) and the pesticide methyl bromide are phased out as quickly as possible.

Anna Lindh and Anders Sundstr m made their position known in open letters to EU environment Commissioner Ritt Bjerregaard and industry Commissioner Martin Bangemann. The initiative was timed shortly before all EU Commissioners are due to consider a legislative proposal, which will require them to reconcile sharp differences between the Commission's environment and industry directorates.

The environment directorate, DGXI, provoked a row earlier this year when it proposed strict new controls on HCFCs and methyl bromide, which are the main ozone depleters still in use in the EU. DGIII, the industry directorate, opposed the proposal following complaints by chemical producers that it would put them at a disadvantage with US and Japanese competitors (ENDS Daily 28 February). Industry also said that the proposal would have little environmental benefit.

A Swedish environment ministry official told ENDS Daily today that the government was concerned that industry lobbying might lead to DGXI's proposal being weakened. In any case, Sweden feels that DGXI did not go far enough. The government wanted to make its views clear before Commissioners meet to consider the proposal.

In the letters, Anna Lindh and Anders Sundstr m state their "belief" that "it would be possible for the European Union to undertake a more rapid phase out of these substances, and particularly hydrochlorofluorocarbons."

They call on the Commission to agree a proposal that would prevent the installation of new long-lived equipment dependent on HCFCs, such as refrigeration and air-conditioning. "Allowing new equipment to be installed at a time when we know that the supply of HCFCs is being phased out might lead users to take investment decisions which in the long term will be expensive for them," they say.

According to the Swedish environment ministry source, the government wants the Commission to set a deadline for ending the use of HCFCs for servicing existing appliances. This is intended to send a signal to users not to buy new equipment that will need HCFC refills beyond this date.

The Swedish ministers also call on the Commission to impose controls on uses of ozone-depleting chemicals as well as supply. Existing controls on CFCs and halons, which focus only on supply, have been difficult to police, they say, and have not stamped out illegal trading.

Follow Up:
Swedish environment ministry, trade and industry ministry ; both tel: +46 8 405 1000.

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