Government states its intention to remain part of F-Gas for at least EU withdrawal period. Longer-term plans for compliance are subject to Brexit negotiations.
Parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee has expressed disappointment. The lack of clear targets and time-frames from the government to meet the ambitions of EU F-Gas regulation are raising concern.
The committee reviews government departments and public-sector organisations working to sustainable initiatives. The cross-party body was critical of commitments from government to meet the key recommendations in its report. This includes amendments in areas such as heat pump subsidies.
The committee’s comments came after the publication of the government’s response to a report it published earlier this year around the UK’s work to reduce F-Gas emissions. Government used the response to set out its intention to remain part of the F-Gas system at the very least until the UK’s withdrawal period from the EU ends.
“What happens after that is subject to negotiations on the UK’s long-term relationship with the EU where we are seeking a close partnership. We are exploring all options including staying in the EU system.”
“Regardless of the outcome of the negotiations. The government intends to maintain the current pace of HFC phase-down, to maintain the high level of environmental ambition. Provide certainty for businesses, which have already invested on the basis of the current phase-down schedule.”
Government also detailed policy its aims on low GWP inhalers for medical use, as well as its decision to avoid revising heat pump incentives.
Recommendations by the Committee to prioritise lower GWP heat pump technology only was rejected by the government. The government’s decision was based on findings of a study that it conducted urging improved uptake of heat pump technology.
The response document said, “The F-Gas quota cuts are already driving industry to look for low GWP alternatives for heat pumps. Any more measures to reduce the use of high GWP refrigerants must not hinder heat pump uptake. That would be counter-productive for the environment.”
“Around 20,000 heat pumps are currently installed each year in the UK. Of which around 20–25 per cent are supported by the government’s Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI). The current RHI scheme runs until 2020/21. Any changes to its terms can’t be applied retrospectively and would only capture a small number of heat pump installations.”
Concerns were also raised by the government. They believe the switch to alternative low-level flammability could also serve as a barrier to use of heat pumps.
The Government would continue to work with industry on switching to these lower GWP products without slowing the pace of heat pump uptake.
Committee chair Mary Creagh, was critical of the government’s response to its heat pump recommendations.
“The government’s failure to address the subsidy scheme for heat pumps means that up to 15,000 heat pumps using F-gases will be paid for by the taxpayer over the next three years.”
The committee was disappointed at a lack of urgency and clear targets for achieving the core recommendations in its F-Gas report. This was despite a positive response from Whitehall to the report’s recommendations.
“Tackling F-Gas emissions is crucial to reducing the UK’s greenhouse gas output. In doing so would prove our commitment to tackling climate change. Last month, the Committee on Climate Change expressed support for our F-gas policy recommendations. Given its warnings that the UK may miss it’s carbon budgets.”