Bas Eickhout, a Dutch Member of the European Parliament for the Greens/European Free Alliance and a leading negotiator on the EU F-gas Regulation, has urged HVAC&R stakeholders to “think twice” before investing in solutions that contain PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances).
“The discussion [around PFAS] is going to get more and more important,” he said. “It’s really important in this sector to think twice, and maybe three times, before you start working on solutions that are going in that direction. Stay out of [PFAS] as much as you can.”
Eickhout delivered his remarks during the EU F-gas Policy panel discussion at the ATMOsphere (ATMO) Europe Summit 2023 on natural refrigerants, which took place September 19–20 in Brussels. The conference was organized by ATMOsphere, publisher of R744.com.
“It’s really important in this sector to think twice, and maybe three times, before you start working on solutions that are going in that direction. Stay out of [PFAS] as much as you can.”Bas Eickhout, MEP
NatRef heat pumps
During the panel discussion, the MEP, who was named Person of the Year – Europe at the conference’s awards ceremony, focused largely on heat pumps, which were a common theme throughout the two-day summit.
“I am a bit disappointed by the heat pump lobby because this is a new sector that can really make a [difference] in our society and should be at the forefront of the climate fight,” he said. “Not only in getting rid of our fossil fuel dependency, but also our greenhouse gas dependency, including f-gases. I don’t understand why the heat pump sector itself is happy with the idea that they are going to explore PFAS. That’s really not the road to take.”
Eickhout added that opting for PFAS in heat pumps is likely to undermine progress in the sector as the public become more aware of health and environmental issues surrounding HFOs.
“I think the signal should now be that [the heat pump sector] wants to invest in natural alternatives to show [it] can get to zero emissions as fast as possible,” he added. “Let’s pass this f-gas phase and look towards innovation in the natural alternatives. It is possible within the [REPowerEU] framework.”
With the EU having committed to be climate neutral by 2050, Eickhout stressed the importance of industry playing its part to reach zero emissions, and, for the HVAC&R sector, this includes refrigerants.
“We know not every sector in Europe can get to zero, but you are working in a sector that can,” he said. “This sector can deliver on zero emissions and move to natural refrigerants. So, let’s put out that signal in the legislation. The phasedown schedule of allowances of f-gases should be zero in 2050.”
During his speech, Eickhout encouraged technological innovation within the HVAC&R sector, highlighting the competitive advantage that this would give to early movers.
“This sector is a classic example of where European industrial policy, climate policy and innovation really go hand-in-hand; this sector is showing that on a daily basis,” he said. “The clever market players know where to go. Those who are prepared for the future will profit from this regulation.”
Eickhout noted early in his address that he had hoped to use ATMO Europe 2023 as an opportunity to provide an update on the proposed revisions to the EU F-gas Regulation. However, negotiations continue after the European Parliament, Council of the EU and European Commission were unable to reach a deal before the summer.
“The offer on the table wasn’t good enough, in my opinion,” he explained. “We are in the process of getting a deal, [and] it should be concluded sometime around October.”
Once a deal is agreed upon, he said the Parliament is looking to implement the law as quickly as possible.
“You would say that this is a no-brainer, to really put out some legislation that is supporting innovation that delivers on climate, employment within the European Union and is setting a precedent for the rest of the world; I think we could, and we should,” he urged.
“This sector can deliver on zero emissions and move to natural refrigerants. So, let’s put out that signal in the legislation.”Bas Eickhout, MEP
To stimulate industry activity across the EU and gain wider support for the legislation, Eickhout encouraged manufacturers to invest in production sites in a wider range of countries – outside of the typical players like the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark.
“Quite some countries feel that all this innovation is not for them, and they fear that they are losing out on their industry by just importing [technologies],” he explained. “I am always pleading with innovative countries to start manufacturing in other countries. I know it’s being done, but not enough yet.”
Other topics covered by Eickhout were refrigerant recovery and recycling and the importance of training.
“If you are making the change to natural alternatives, you do have some implementation issues for which training is crucial,” he said, adding that the Parliament is looking at how f-gas quota prices could help fund training programs.
“If you are making the change to natural alternatives, you do have some implementation issues for which training is crucial.”Bas Eickhout, MEP