The UK government has responded to a report from the Environmental Audit Committee alleging that it is failing to implement the EU’s F-Gas Regulation.
The UK government today responded to 16 recommendations in an April 2018 report by the Parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee alleging that the Conservative-led government is “failing to enforce” the new EU F-Gas Regulation, which requires the UK to phase down HFCs by 79% by 2030.
Mary Creagh, who chairs the Environmental Audit Committee that came up with the 16 recommendations, welcomed the government’s response but noted that it lacked clear steps on how to tackle the Committee’s concerns that the UK is not doing enough to phase down HFCs.
“While the government was positive about many of our recommendations, we are disappointed it has not shown more urgency and set out clear targets and a timeframe for achieving them,” Creagh, who is a Labour Member of Parliament (MP), said in a press release. “The government can and should do more".
Funding for high-GWP heat pumps will continue
Responding to the report’s third recommendation that support for high-global warming potential, HFC-based heat pumps being awarded through the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) must be discontinued by 2020, with the RHI only incentivising low-GWP refrigerants instead, the government said it had looked into this concern and found that the “carbon benefit of displacing fossil fuels was around 17 times higher than the impact of refrigerant leakage”.
“That means that even where high-GWP refrigerants are used, there is still a very significant net climate benefit from using heat pumps,” said the UK government in an official statement, noting that additional measures would hinder uptake of heat pumps.
The government also pointed out that, “the most promising alternative refrigerants tend to be flammable to some degree, which can present barriers to their use” and said the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) would work with industry to increase uptake of heat pumps using low-GWP refrigerants (i.e. natural refrigerants and HFOs).
MP Creagh retorted that this means, “up to 15,000 heat pumps using f-gases will be paid for by the taxpayer over the next three years” if the RHI continues to fund heat pumps indiscriminately until 2021 (the year the scheme ends).
The government, responding to the committee’s concerns that, “thousands of qualified engineers are not trained in relation to low-GWP refrigerants” in the UK, stated that it is working to address this. “City and Guilds currently offer courses on hydrocarbon refrigerants and the Building Engineering Services Association expect to have an updated qualification available from July 2018,” the government stated.
“Defra will work with industry to publicise the need for training and the options available” such as from equipment manufacturers who offer training in the U.K. on low-GWP refrigerants, it added.
Brexit – what’s next?
The government also set out what it has been doing to make sure that the UK continues to phase down HFCs before the end of the EU exit implementation period in December 2020; another concern raised in the report by the Committee in April.
The response maintains, “the Government is making preparations to ensure the current F-gas restrictions continue to apply after we leave the EU”.
“Defra launched a consultation on 10 May about the creation of a new, independent, statutory body to scrutinise and advise on environmental policy, investigate complaints and take action to ensure the proper delivery of environmental law by Government once we have left the EU,” the government said.
It is unclear whether the Conservative government will continue to be in power to deliver Brexit after political turmoil this week, the BBC reports.
Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, and David Davis, the Brexit secretary, have both resigned their positions in the government along with two parliamentary private secretaries and Brexit Minister Steve Baker.
Johnson cited concerns that Prime Minister Therese May is allowing a "semi-Brexit" to happen, while Chris Green stepped down as parliamentary private secretary to the Department for Transport because he does not believe May will "really leave the EU".
To replace her as prime minister, MPs unhappy with her leadership must secure 45 votes of no confidence.
The UK government is aiming to publish, “a draft Environmental Principles and Governance Bill in the autumn and introduce it in the second session of this Parliament with the aim of enacting it before the end of the EU exit implementation period in December 2020,” which will also deal with the EU F-Gas Regulation.