Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Correspondence from the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions to the European Commission 8 January 2001


  We have now discussed on a number of occasions the difficulties created by Article 11.1 of EC Regulation 2037/2000 on substances that deplete the ozone layer to the UK export trade in refrigeration equipment. I am writing formally to put on record our concerns and to suggest that we meet to discuss the issue as soon as possible.

  There is a large trade from the UK and other Member States of second hand fridges to developing countries, mostly in West Africa, but also the rest of Africa and further afield. There are economic, humanitarian and environmental reasons to encourage this trade in fridges where the CFC refrigerant has been replaced by more acceptable alternatives. Used fridges are, in many cases, the only source of affordable domestic refrigeration available to people in developing countries—the alternative is no refrigeration with implications for the preservation of both food and medicines. From what we have been told by the industry, the trade could be worth roughly £30 million each year to UK companies, and has economic benefits in the importing countries. A case can be made on sustainable development grounds that it is better for the fridges to continue to have a useful life where they are needed than be needlessly scrapped now in the European Union. Greenpeace UK and Greenpeace International support the export trade on these grounds, provided the CFC refrigerant has been removed prior to export.

  As you know, Article 11 prevents the export of equipment containing CFCs and other controlled substances. We understand that it was the Commission's intention to stop the export of equipment containing CFC refrigerants, on the grounds that these would continue to be needed for servicing the equipment, but not the export of such products containing CFCs in the insulating foam. This was done in an effort to comply with Decisions VII/32 and IX/9 taken by the Parties to the Montreal Protocol, both of which refer to equipment that uses or relies upon ODS technology. As insulating foam is neither a technology nor does it rely on a continued supply of CFCs, it would seem to us that it was also not the intention of the Parties to prevent exports of equipment containing CFC blown foam. However, Article 11.1 is drafted in such a way that it prohibits the export of refrigeration equipment, whether or not the CFC refrigerant has been removed and replaced with a non-ODS alternative. At present only one or two Member States have working plants that are able to recover CFCs from insulating foam during the destruction of the fridge—the rest are in the same position as the UK.

  Currently, a fridge destroyed in the UK, Germany or Finland would harm the ozone layer in just the same way as the same fridge scrapped after 15 years of further useful life in Ghana, Nigeria or Burkina Faso.

  We would welcome some suggestions from you on how the UK and other Member States can, perhaps for a limited time period, get over the problem caused by the drafting of Article 11.1. It may also be helpful to have a meeting later this month, together with other Member States that have similar difficulties (eg Belgium, Germany, Finland and France) to explore possible ways forward.

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