Tough new measures to control and ban greenhouse gases used in refrigeration and air conditioning are on their way if EU lawmakers follow the opinion of the Parliament's environment committee.

EU Environment ministers decided last year to split the draft F-gas bill into two separate legislative proposals (EurActiv, 15 Oct. 2004):

A directive to phase out HFC-134a from vehicle air conditioning (legal base: internal market - article 95)

A regulation for other 'stationary' applications such as domestic and commercial fridges and air conditioners (legal base: internal market and environment - article 95 and 175) F-gases (hydrofluorocarbons or HFCs, perfluorocarbons or PFCs and sulphur hexafluoride or SF6) were introduced in the nineties to replace CFCs and HCFCs, blamed for depleting the earth's ozone layer.

However, the Commission estimates their global warming potential to be as much as "23,900 times that of carbon dioxide (CO2)" in the case of SF6. Emissions of F-gases are expected to grow dramatically if no action is taken, "from 65.2 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent in 1995 to 98 million tonnes in 2010," according to the Commission. Issues: Member states could be allowed to adopt stricter national legislation to curb emissions of F-gases from fridges and air-conditioners if the Parliament follows the advice of its environment committee which came out on 11 October.

In their vote on the report from Avril Doyle MEP (EPP-ED, Ireland), MEPs chose to base the regulation for so-called 'stationary applications' (fridges, air conditioning, etc.) solely on the environmental provisions of the EU treaty (article 175). This means individual EU nations can adopt stricter legislation to reduce F-gases emissions than required under EU law, thereby potentially opening the way for manufacturers to have to adapt to different legislation as they sell their products across the EU.