Dave Smith, business director at Koura Global, member of the EFCTC
Dave Smith, business director at Koura Global, and EFCTC member said that over the last five years, we have witnessed an increasingly concentrated effort by policymakers to put together legislative environmental packages intended to help preserve the world for future generations. At the global level, the momentous Paris Climate Agreement went into effect in 2016, shortly after the adoption of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. More locally, the UK became the first country in the world to enact a net zero target while consecutive DEFRA ministers were able to continue the push towards zero carbon by announcing such policies as banning of petrol and diesel cars by 2035.
The European Union has not yet followed in the UK’s footsteps to set net zero targets (although climate legislation to adopt the same 2050 is already well underway). That is not to suggest the EU has not been busy implementing its own environmental policies; laws which the Government has confirmed will transfer over to the UK post a Brexit deal. Among those existing legislations is a quota system set in place to incrementally minimise the import of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) – a group of gases used across a wide range of refrigerant applications. However, while the quota system is commendable, it has unfortunately ushered in a dark underbelly of illegally sourced refrigerants, which can be traced back to shady origins within organised crime.
The F-Gas regulation (517/2014), the policy in question, has the ambition to eventually reduce the use of HFCs to 21% of what it was in 2015 by the end of 2030. Sometimes consciously, but for some unconsciously, HFCs – and we are talking about a variety of gases including R134a, R404a, and R407C – are imported and sold on illegally to be used in refrigeration and cooling across the UK.
This problem is damaging in several ways. First of all, it finances organised crime. Second of all, there’s the environmental impact of the quota system not being adhered to. Finally, funding the illegal market means it will be more difficult to invest in R&D to find equally efficient, low GWP alternatives.
The EFCTC, a coalition of five producers of fluorinated gases, recognises the problem and has set upon raising awareness and finding solutions. Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet, and the problem is accentuated further through the complexity of, and many different end users in, the value chain. It will undoubtedly take collaboration, awareness, and vigilance to effectively crack down on illegal products. This is why EFCTC has taken the first steps – first by launching an action line for reports of suspicious activity and most recently by launching in October 2020 the #SayNoToIllegalHFCs pledge.
We believe that as one force collectively raising awareness of the issue, sharing best practice, and empowering all stakeholders to make a difference, key players in the supply chain, from distributors to contractors to end users can work as a united force.
It is an awareness-raising campaign – a way of joining disparate industries together under one banner. It is also a commitment: signing the pledge is about taking on corporate or personal responsibility to do what you can to source HFCs through reliable channels. At EFCTC, we also see the pledge as a way for businesses to demonstrate to clients and peers in the value chain that they act responsibly and are committed to the highest ethical standards.
In the UK, and indeed across the rest of Europe, more than 150 signatories have already joined the campaign. Key producers and distributors of HFCs A-Gas and Climalife UK have signed the pledge while the Federation of Environmental Trade Associations (FETA), within which the British Refrigerants Association (BRA) sits, has placed its name behind the campaign as well.
At this point, it is about reach: how many can join us and how wide can that influence be? We call on all actors in the value chain to come together and collectively take a stand against the black market, which is acting to undermine a green law. Ultimately, it is time to bring industry together to protect the environment.
If you are interested in joining the fight to #SayNoToIllegalHFCs, you can visit www.stopillegalcooling.eu/pledge.