The head of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has called for enforceable domestic regulations in all countries to deter and combat the illegal trade in refrigerants.
Speaking at COP26 in Glasgow this week, EPA administrator Michael S Regan confirmed that the US had begun implementing the American Innovation and Manufacturing (AIM) Act to phase HFCs down by 85% over the next 15 years. In September, the EPA issued a regulation that began the phase down through a system of tradable allowances, limiting HFC production and consumption.
The decision brings the US into line with the Kigali Amendment which has already been ratified by around 128 countries.
While admitting to being “proud” that the US is taking the necessary steps to address HFCs and their impact on climate change, Regan recognised that the phase down HFCs in other countries had created an illegal trade which was undermining the climate benefits of the legislation.
“And it also disadvantages law abiding companies that are seeking to comply with the requirements and that are making investments in producing substitutes for HFCs to realise the HFC phase down significant contribution to combating the climate crisis. We must have enforceable domestic regulations in all countries,” he said.
“We’re looking around the world, and to the rest of the world, to understand and learn from what other countries are doing to detect, deter and prevent this illegal trade. As a result, our new phase down regulations include a robust, agile and innovative compliance and enforcement system to ensure that we realise every single benefit of the phase down. We will be using quick response or QR codes to track containers of HFCs through the market, from sales through distribution of recipients.”
Regan also repeated that the US would ban disposable cylinders, the most common container used for illegal refrigerants. It is expected that disposables will be banned from import and production in 2025, with an outright sales ban in 2027.
Kevin Fay, executive director of the industry coalition body the Alliance for Responsible Atmospheric Policy, said that they had urged the US government work with its European counterparts to strengthen their rules and procedures to prevent continued abuse of the T1 transit process, smuggling and other illicit trade that’s currently taking place in the European Union.
“We’ve urged that penalties for the illegal importation of HFCs to be more robust and better harmonised across the European Union,” he said. He posted out that while the potential fines in the United States are $45,000 per kg per day, some of the fines in Europe were far less punitive.
“And so in order to be serious in terms of deterring illegal activity, the penalties need to be serious and significant as well,” Fay said.