Rushing F-gas reduction will damage business and take away jobs

Rushing F-gas reduction will damage business and take away jobs


Updated: 10 October 2013

Regulators should not move too fast on reducing the use of fluorinated gas (or F-gases) refrigerants, as the cost implications for many retailers and wholesalers could significantly damage their businesses, writes Christian Verschueren.

Christian Verschueren is director-general of EuroCommerce, the association representing the interests of the retail and wholesale sector.

Fluorinated gases are powerful greenhouse gases currently used by commerce and industry in refrigeration and air-conditioning appliances. As refrigeration becomes more widely used by all sectors, F-gases could come to account for nearly one fifth of all greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The European Commission has last year proposed a review to the F-gases Regulation in order to curb this trend. The commerce sector has backed this aim repeatedly: because refrigeration is vital for our sector, we are committed to containing and reducing leakages of these gases into the atmosphere.

Global supply-chain initiatives such as the resolution on sustainable refrigeration from the Consumer Goods Forum’s members underline the commitment of the commerce sector. Some of the world’s largest retail companies have undertaken to begin a phase-out of F-gases refrigerants from 2015, replacing them with natural refrigerant alternatives (where legally allowed and available) for new equipment. Therefore, the proposal’s aim of moving towards more environmentally friendly alternatives is one which we are already embracing.

However, the question is how to deal with existing equipment that is still running on F-gases.

The current proposal would introduce a ban on the servicing and maintenance of all existing equipment, which uses F-gases with a global warming potential of 2,500 or above, by a certain deadline. Beyond this date, retail shops and wholesale outlets would no longer be able to use the equipment concerned. The deadline proposed by the European Commission is 1 January 2020, while the European Parliament’s Environment Committee would go even further, with a cut-off date of 1 January 2017.

From the sector’s perspective, neither of these dates are realistic. There are an estimated 8 million appliances which will need to be replaced in order to comply with the proposal. This work must be done in a planned fashion and it must be done well. Too tight a deadline would impose intolerable pressure on businesses and could result either in the work not being done at all, leaving businesses unable to use their refrigerators, or in work being done in a substandard way. Neither of these outcomes is good for business, European consumers or the environment.

Some food retail companies have over 1,000 stores across Europe. The current rate of store refurbishment in companies is on average 4% per year. To meet the 2020 deadline, companies would have to increase this rate considerably and retrofit 20% of their stores each year: an average of 150 stores per year.  Companies don’t have resources to comply and if they did, it would be detrimental to much-needed business growth and job creation.

With the replacement of equipment also comes the need to retrain staff: this takes time. If regulators insist on too early a deadline, companies could face a lack of qualified workers capable of handling the new systems.

Working towards a sustainable commerce sector is too important to be rushed. Imposing disproportionate expectations and excessive burdens on companies in the short-term is not the way to build a sustainable and economically viable commerce sector for the long-term. So, EU policy makers: rethink your deadlines in order to reach an agreement which would be beneficial for businesses and society as a whole.


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