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UK’s EU F-Gas future uncertain as in-out referendum looms

22 June 2016

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On the eve of the UK referendum on continued EU membership, the shadow of Brexit looms large over the HVAC&R industry – with a potential exit from the bloc putting the United Kingdom’s f-gas phase-down trajectory on an uncertain footing.

A British exit from the European Union – commonly referred to as Brexit – would have unknown and far-reaching implications for all areas of society; not least the UK’s continued implementation of EU climate and energy policy.

The European Union places particularly strong emphasis on climate and energy regulation, with an EU legislative framework committing member states to reducing their carbon emissions.

Natural refrigerants like CO2, hydrocarbons and ammonia will have a key role to play in the context of the HFC phase-down taking place in Europe under the EU’s F-Gas Regulation, which since 2015 has been reducing the total amount of HFCs that can be sold in Europe. In 2020, a ban on using certain HFCs in new equipment comes into effect, accompanied by bans on servicing and maintaining existing equipment. 

EU F-Gas, ETS participation unclear

It is unclear whether the UK would continue to implement the F-Gas Regulation in the event of Brexit, with some Brexit campaigners citing their opposition to stringent EU climate regulations as a determining factor in their position.

A ComRes poll cited in the Guardian found that Brexiters are more likely to think the media exaggerates how settled climate science is, distrust scientists, oppose onshore wind farms and support fracking.

It also remains to be seen whether a post-Brexit UK would remain in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). Although non-EU countries such as Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway take part in the EU ETS, Switzerland does not.

The Guardian reports that many prominent leave campaigners are either openly opposed to action on climate change or have cast doubt on man’s role in it, including former UK Chancellor Nigel Lawson, former Environment Secretary Owen Paterson and columnist Matthew Ridley.

In the ComRes poll published on 16 June, 18% of leave voters and 10% of remain votes disagreed with the statement: “human activity is causing climate change.”

UK food and distribution sector concerned by Brexit prospect

UK Food Storage and Distribution Federation (FSDF) President Malcolm Johnstone has expressed concern over the implications of Brexit for the sector’s future. Speaking at their annual lunch on 15 June, he said, “what does it mean for our industry? How do we interpret the challenges of whether we are staying in or out?”

The European cold chain is of huge importance to UK industry. “The desire to create a common trading platform for all member countries has introduced a raft of legislation to maintain equality and a level playing field,” said Johnstone, citing the Working Time Directive, another directive governing driver working hours, and the introduction of driver CPCs (Certificates of Competence) as examples of the positive transformational change to the UK distribution sector that had resulted from Britain’s EU membership.

Whatever the outcome tomorrow, Johnstone stressed that the FSDF remains committed to working with their European partners.

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