In a speech at the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow, U.K., Michael Regan, Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), called for a global effort to “deter and combat” illegal trade in HFCs

“We must have enforceable domestic regulations in all countries and work together to deter and combat illegal trade,” he said on November 9 at the U.S. Pavilion, at a panel of global leaders, business interests and NGOs called “Securing the Climate Benefits of the Global HFC Phasedown: Preventing Illegal Trade in HFCs.”

Illegal HFC activity has been rampant in Europe over the past several years since the EU’s F-Gas Regulation reduced availability of the gases. In September the U.S. EPA enacted its own HFC phase-down program based on the AIM (American Innovation and Manufacturing) Act.

“The global phase down of HFCs is critical to tackling the climate crisis,” Regan said. However, he added, illegal trade of HFCs “undermines the climate benefits” of the phase down.

The U.S., he said, is “looking to the rest of the world to understand and learn from what other countries are doing to detect, deter and prevent illegal trade.”

He described the EPA’s own “robust, agile and innovative compliance and enforcement system,” as outlined in the recent AIM Act rule, “to ensure that we realize every single benefit of the phase down.”

The rule:

  • Establishes an electronic tracking system (including QR codes) for the movement of HFCs through commerce;
  • Requires the use of refillable cylinders and container labeling requirements;
  • Establishes administrative consequences (e.g., revocation or retirement of allowances) for noncompliance that would be in addition to any civil and criminal enforcement action;
  • Requires third-party auditing of companies’ recordkeeping and reporting; and
  • Provides transparency of HFC production and consumption data for the general public and participants in the market, and supports enforcement and compliance efforts.

In addition, to prevent illegal trade in HFCs, EPA is coordinating with other federal agencies, in particular, U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

“We can all share experiences and identify common practices used by those who seek to illegally trade climate-damaging HFCs,” Regan said.