April 20, 2009 / 2:51 PM / 10 years ago

EU closes climate loophole for car air conditioners

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union has closed a loophole that would have allowed car manufacturers to continue putting climate-damaging chemicals in air conditioners of new vehicles beyond a 2011 ban, a Commission document showed.

The move opens up a new market for greener refrigerants, with industry giant Honeywell International pitching its HFO-1234yf coolant against rival carbon dioxide-based systems, such as that of Austria’s Obrist Engineering.

The European Union ruled in 2006 that from 2011 it would ban the use of fluorinated chemicals, such as the industry standard known as R134a, which have a powerful climate-warming effect when released into the atmosphere.

The move aimed to help the EU meet its commitment of reducing greenhouse gas emissions under the Kyoto protocol, the United Nations’ main tool against climate change.

The rules apply to all new models of car from 2011, and any new vehicle at all from 2017.

But many of the EU’s national authorities decided not to enforce the ban for new vehicle types that were using air conditioning systems already approved in previous models.

That would have effectively rendered the law obsolete until 2017 for the millions of European cars produced each year, such as those of Renault and PSA Peugeot Citroen.

“Such an interpretation would result in the circumvention of the objectives of the legislation,” the European Commission said in a letter, seen by Reuters on Monday, to EU member states.

From January 1, 2011, EU member states may only approve new vehicle models using less environmentally damaging gases, regardless of whether the air conditioning system has been approved before, the EU executive added.

Reporting by Pete Harrison

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