Europe urged to clamp down on growing greenhouse gases black market

Illegal hydrofluorocarbons smuggled into the EU amount to nearly 30% of the legal trade, according to the Environmental Investigation Agency

Big Zero Report 2022

The London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) has urged the European Public Prosecutor’s Office to launch an investigation into the illegal multi-million euro trade in climate-damaging hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) in Europe.

HFCs are industrial refrigerant gases used in, among other things, air-conditioning and supermarket cooling units.

As part of a gradual phase down in using HFCs, the EU has introduced a quota system through its F-Gas Regulation to limit the volume of these greenhouse gases on the market.

The measure cut the supply by 37% in 2018 which in turn caused prices to soar while fuelled a black market across Europe.

The EIA said Romania has become a major gateway for HFC smuggling.

In its recent report, the EIA states that smugglers exploited loopholes in the F-Gas Regulation and customs procedures, paid off corrupt officials and benefited from lax border controls.

The EIA’s investigation, which compared data reported under the EU F-Gas Regulation with trade data, estimated that the volume of illegal HFCs smuggled into the EU amounted to between 20% and 30% of the legal trade.

EIA Senior Climate Campaigner Fionnuala Walravens said: “Despite giving Romanian law enforcement our evidence 12 months ago, no action appears to have taken place.

“The illegal trade not only jeopardises the achievement of the EU’s climate objectives, but it has also resulted in the loss of approximately €77 million (£64.3m) a year in VAT and customs duties.”

In case you missed it, listen to what Dr Xavier Moya, Lecturer at the University of Cambridge told ELN about the impact of polluting gases used on air conditioners on the environment.

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