A study, by EMPA, the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology, claims that Western European emissions of HFC-23 are as much as 140 per cent higher than the figures contained in national emissions reports.
The study, which relies on data collected in Switzerland and Ireland, points the finger directly at European Chemical Manufacturers who are not currently obliged to destroy R23 under the Fgas Regulations.
The authors of the study say that if you rely on the official reports of the participating countries, the output of trifluoromethane (HFC-23) in Western Europe is indeed significantly decreasing. However, pollutant measurements carried out by EMPA now reveal that several countries under-report their emissions.
For instance, Italy emits 10 to 20 times more HFC-23 than it officially reports. International agreements such as the Kyoto Protocol to reduce greenhouse gases (GHG) basically have one snag: it is almost impossible to independently verify whether participating countries abide by the agreement.
Thus the evaluation of whether or not the countries have achieved their reduction targets is based on the official reports by the countries that are signatories to the UNFCCC (‘United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’). If they report reduced emissions they’re sitting pretty; if not, they are pilloried.
EMPA claims that by using a special gas chromatograph mass spectrometer called ‘MEDUSA’ they can measure the emission levels of more than 50 halogenated GHG quickly and precisely. It is also possible to identify the emission sources regionally, thanks to atmospheric and meteorological computer models. The sobering result, according to the authors, “Western Europe emits around twice as much HFC-23 as officially reported”
The study reported that Solvay’s Solexis plant in Italy is venting 10-20 times more HFC-23 than Italy is reporting. Higher emissions were also reported from The Netherlands (Dupont), the United Kingdom (Ineos) and France (Arkema).
Environmental campaigners say the solution is simple. The Fgas Regulations are currently under review. The revised regulations could require that manufacturers destroy all HFC-23s and prove that they have done so.