* F-gases up to 23,000 times more damaging than CO2
* Emissions of F-gases have risen 60 percent since 1990
* Lawmakers voted to phase out F-gases by 2020 in several
* F-gases will be banned in new equipment by 2020
By Barbara Lewis and Ethan Bilby
BRUSSELS, June 19 The European Parliament's
Environment Committee backed a sweeping ban on the use in
fridges and air conditioners of fluorinated gases - greenhouse
gases that are many thousands of times more damaging than carbon
The plan, which would have to be approved by a plenary
session of the parliament and by EU countries before becoming
law, goes much further than a proposal from the executive
It seeks a gradual phase-out and ban in new equipment by
2020, and to levy a charge on the use of the gases by producers.
Some two decades after international action led to the
phase-out of ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), the
Commission is trying to eliminate this new generation of
climate-harming chemicals, known as F-gases.
F-gases, used as coolants in air conditioning and in
domestic, supermarket and industrial refrigeration, were
introduced as a solution easily acceptable to industry, since
their production chain resembled that for CFCs.
But their global warming potential, up to 23,000 times more
than carbon dioxide, has led the Commission to push for natural
non-synthetic alternatives such as ammonia or CO2, which can
have high cooling properties when used in refrigeration.
The industry says it supports change, but many argue it
needs time to develop the right refrigerants as in some cases
the alternatives are flammable, toxic or less energy-efficient.
"We are very disappointed that the Environment Committee has
chosen the course of command and control politics with the
highest price tag that Europeans will have to pay for," the
European Partnership for Energy and the Environment, which
represents Europe's heating and cooling industry, said.
Its members include Fujitsu and Honeywell.
Environmental campaigners and some small firms, specialised
in natural refrigerants, say the opposite.
They argue that replacement technology is already available
and deploying it would help small innovative companies based in
Europe to gain an international edge.
"HFC-free alternatives are ready, and this is an opportunity
to put European businesses at the forefront of the ever-growing
refrigeration and air-conditioning markets while scoring a
crucial victory for the climate," said the Environmental
Investigation Agency, a group involved in climate issues.
In contrast to a drop in other emissions, F-gases have risen
in the European Union by 60 percent since 1990.
They leak into the atmosphere from production plants and
during the operation and disposal of products and equipment that
Separately, the Environment Committee also voted to back a
compromise plan to boost the price of allowances on the European
Union's carbon market by temporarily removing some of a glut of
Campaigners welcomed Wednesday's 'yes' vote, although
environmentalists say the proposal is very weak and will have a
limited impact on low prices, which undermine the market's role
in providing an incentive for companies to cut emissions.
But they hope that, if passed by parliament and adopted by
member states, it will be a stepping stone towards deeper
structural measures, such as the permanent withdrawal of some