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

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 260 - 279)



  260. Between them, however, these two departments could be expected to have knowledge of both the extent of the export trade and the technical issues about foam?
  (Dr Batchelor) Yes, sir.

  261. You have described what appeared to be a sudden realisation from these two organisations.
  (Dr Batchelor) Yes. We would expect them to be knowledgeable of both of those areas that we talked about.

  262. Was there ever a feeling, and it would be difficult, perhaps, to answer this, that what the UK contingent was looking for was a way around this regulation?
  (Dr Batchelor) I think, Mr Chairman, if you become aware of the significant facts—the volume of the trade combined with the lack of knowledge of the volume in the foam—then you may adopt a strategy that would try to discuss the semantics of the regulation in the hope that that might undermine that part of its compliance and, therefore, take you on a track that might absolve you of those difficulties that you are facing. However, I am not part of the UK team. I cannot say that this was their strategy, but this would appear to be the case from our perspective, looking towards the UK's wording.

  263. Thank you for a very diplomatic answer to the question. By this crucial meeting of 11/12 June, it looks as if at that date at last the UK said "Fair enough, we realise this is the situation, we now accept the same interpretation as everybody else." Were they convinced by the force of argument? What brought about the change of heart, do you think? The same issues had been gone over, as far as I can tell, again and again in these meetings for several months.
  (Dr Batchelor) In answer to your question, I do not know what brought the change about.

  Mr Lepper: You could not be expected to.


  264. Can I be clear: both in the recitals of this regulation and, particularly, Articles 1 and 2, where definitions abound in what it affects, it struck me, looking at it, that the message that comes through is that this is designed to stop CFCs, wherever they occur within the types of equipment and situation covered by this regulation, escaping into the atmosphere. If you were going to start to take part in negotiation on this particular matter, would you have thought that that basic piece of knowledge was an important one to have had if you were going to renegotiate—for any Member State—in knowing what this was about?
  (Dr Batchelor) Mr Chairman, do you mean what this was about in terms of CFCs being released into the atmosphere?

  265. Exactly that point.
  (Dr Batchelor) Yes. In fact, the negotiation team in DEFRA has always been very concerned with minimising any releases to the atmosphere. The track that was taken in these arguments here, I would have to admit, are not consistent with that effort that has been put in in the past.

  Chairman: I asked you a moment ago if you would be kind enough to identify in the more detailed annexes which bits refer to foam; could I ask for the same to be done in relation to Articles 1 and 2? I am anxious to know—as normally documents are read from the front to the back—at what point somebody reading this thing for the first time might have come across words which could have suggested to them that it was the totality of CFCs within a refrigerator that might be covered by this? The line of questioning up to now has centred on, "Could it in the real world actually be done?", but the early part of the Regulation defines the territory over which you want to try and cover and ensure that CFCs do not get released into the atmosphere, so perhaps we could have a little clarification. That would be helpful.

Patrick Hall

  266. In respect of when UK officials started to question some of the details, as you have outlined and no doubt we will go over some of that quite a bit more in the weeks ahead, is it not the case that across the EU, irrespective of what has been said by British officials, the Regulation is being implemented but to different standards and indeed in some places not being implemented? Is that not the case? You mentioned, one of you, I think, Dr Batchelor mentioned that eight Member States are significantly recycling CFCs from fridges. What does "significantly" mean, which countries and what is actually happening in the others?
  (Dr Batchelor) We can give you a summary, sir, of the progress there. We know that there are commercial facilities that extract CFCs from the compressor and the foam that are now operating in Austria, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden. We have, as I have mentioned before, just done a survey report and based on the survey reporting for the past three years more than 12,000 refrigeration units have been processed annually in Luxembourg, more than 200,000 units annually in Austria and Denmark, more than 300,000 refrigeration units per year in Sweden, more than 500,000 refrigeration units per year in the Netherlands, more than one million refrigeration units per year in Italy and more than two million refrigeration units per year in Germany. These are the figures that we have to date.

  267. What sort of percentage or proportion of the market in those countries are those actual numbers? Are they what you would describe as significantly high percentages?
  (Dr Batchelor) We have not done that analysis to look at what proportion that is, although I would say that the Member States are due to report on their compliance with this part of the Regulation. They were due to report on 31 December 2001, so we would expect those reports coming in very shortly and it would be extremely useful if they mentioned the level of recycling that was taking care of the market in total. In stating the number of countries that are recycling, I have to say that we have yet to receive reports from four Member States and we are still waiting on those reports.


  268. Is one of them the United Kingdom?
  (Dr Batchelor) No, in fact the United Kingdom is in compliance and I think that it is very important, Mr Chairman, to note this, that since the United Kingdom has halted their export of refrigerators and since they are storing these refrigerators pending the recovery and destruction equipment coming on stream, then that puts the UK totally in compliance with this part of the Regulation and this issue. As Mr Jones said, it raises other issues that are more complicated, but it solves that part of the Regulation.

  269. Just out of interest, Mr Jones told us that not all of the refrigerators in these stored States are in the condition which would contain the CFCs. How do you view those who are a bit sort of dodgy around the margins of this?
  (Dr Batchelor) Well, we were concerned to hear that, quite frankly. The Regulation clearly states that the CFCs, indeed the ozone-depleting substances that are contained in these refrigerators must be recovered and if they are being stored in such a way that does not promote their recovery, this would be contrary to the Regulation.

Patrick Hall

  270. One of the follow-up questions about where does the UK sit in that analysis of what all the EU Member States are doing, you have mentioned one of the aspects of the UK's performance in terms of compliance, but what is your assessment at this point in time of where the UK sits?
  (Dr Batchelor) With respect to this refrigeration?

  271. The whole issue.
  (Dr Batchelor) The whole issue is that I cannot help but review the record and see that there are eight Member States that are already up and running and well into the recovery and destruction of the CFCs. We would have to regard the UK as in the starting blocks and ready to go.

  272. Would it be your view that all of the Member States, all of them whether they had the technology in place at one point or not, have had enough lead time to introduce it?
  (Dr Batchelor) Yes, yes, they have. If we go back to the political decision being made in December 1998, the common position having been developed in February 1999, that is, from February 1999 until January 2002, it is a significant amount of time in which to put into place these facilities.

Mr Martlew

  273. Do you know if there is any Member State who is not in compliance and has just ignored the Directive?
  (Dr Batchelor) We do. At least we suspect that there might be some Member States who are not in compliance. We know that there is a meeting tomorrow within the European Environment Committee looking at the implementation of environmental law. One of the topics on the agenda is specifically compliance with the legislation on ozone-depleting substances. This meeting tomorrow will look at the Regulation in two areas: firstly, are Member States complying with a ban on the export of domestic refrigerators; and, secondly, have they in place recovery and destruction facilities for the CFCs? We will be following up very carefully on the implementation of the Regulation with all Member States and as with other non-compliance cases, we will be pursuing this in the courts when all other courses of action have failed.

  274. We have had that situation with British beef and the French. Of course the action could possibly have been that a Member State is actually getting the equipment in to deal with the problem, but in the meantime ignoring your Directive.
  (Dr Batchelor) On the contrary, sir. The fact that the UK is storing fridges in preparation for the recovery and recycling puts them totally in compliance.

  275. What I was suggesting is that perhaps there may be some other countries that are ignoring your Directive for the time being until they get the infrastructure up and running to be able to deal with it. I suspect that may have been an option for the British Government and they did not take that option. Can I come back though to the ban on the export of fridges. Obviously most of these went to Africa and in the UK's case most of them went to West Africa. You have stopped that supply totally. Does that not seem a bit harsh when even Greenpeace on balance thought that this export trade should continue? What we are doing as rich countries is saying that we are depriving African countries of these fridges. Did one department in the EU not talk to another department?
  (Dr Batchelor) Yes, sir. In fact both DEFRA and DTI explained the humanitarian basis of this trade very clearly to us and we are, of course, understanding of this view to assist others that are not as well-developed as ourselves. However, there is another issue and another side to this. Under the Montreal Protocol, which is an international treaty that controls ozone-depleting substances, the developing countries have signed to a 2010 phase-out for CFCs. One view is that if you export fridges that contain CFCs to these countries one increases the dependency of those countries on a chemical that is being phased out. That is the first view. In fact, Mr T½pfer, who is the Chief Executive Officer for UNEP, quite recently has stated that many of those countries—


  276. Can you tell us what UNEP is?
  (Dr Batchelor) It is the United Nations Environment Programme. They are based in Nairobi in Kenya. He has stated very clearly that shipping discarded refrigerators to developing countries is no longer required and not necessary for many of those countries and should be discouraged. I think it is on this basis that the regulation was actually developed in the first place, and I think the European Council took the view that it was better to not increase the dependency of these countries on this technology. We can, of course, ship refrigerators to those countries that do not depend on this technology, and there are examples now of these fridges that are non-ODS being built all round the world. One of the lead countries for this is China, one of the largest developing countries, which is now producing fridges that do not rely at all on any ozone-depleting substances.

Mr Martlew

  277. It is always a question of whether the individuals in these countries can actually afford to buy them. Can we go on to a point that was made at a previous meeting? One of the arguments against providing this new equipment is that once we have got rid of CFCs they will not be required. Do you think that the new fridges will need to be disposed of in this way?
  (Dr Batchelor) Yes, sir. Prior to 1994 nearly all of the fridges that were made used CFCs. After this date they transitioned on to other substances—for example, HCFCs—and these have one-tenth of the ozone-depleting potential of CFCs. So they are, if you like, 90 per cent less damaging to the ozone layer. However, they are transitional substances and there are other substances now that are coming on-stream, such as hydrocarbons, that have no ozone-depleting potential at all. In the meantime the facilities that are being constructed now will have use for many years in destroying fridges that contain HCFCs because eventually the production of HCFCs will stop, the manufacturers will no longer have that material available for fridges, there will be a ban on filling up HCFC fridges and you will need to recover the HCFCs from those fridges. The investment in recycling facilities is, in the short term, needed for the CFCs in the refrigerators here, but in the longer term it can be used for all ozone-depleting substances. I might also add that some of the refrigerators are being made with gases that have climate change potential in them. Therefore, there is a need to also prevent those gases getting into the atmosphere. So we can actually see, if you like, those facilities performing a dual role for both the Kyoto Protocol and the Montreal Protocol.

  278. Was the Fridge Directive a one-off or are we going to have other directives where we are going to be sitting round in this room asking why the UK did not deal with it in a proper way? Can you see other problems coming in the medium and long term?
  (Mrs Wenning) There will undoubtedly be other directives and other regulations. We continue, in relation to the specific regulation, to discuss with the Member States any points that seem to be unclear. I think we are trying to identify those points. We are not saying that it is an easy regulation, but we feel that in this process, in this intense discussion with the Member States, we will be able to resolve any possible forthcoming interpretation differences, and in that way I think we will have to work further on this regulation. That is something which will not finish now, there are too many important issues in that regulation that need implementing and that need discussion between the Commission and the Member States.

  279. Is there anything different in the way the UK approaches the negotiations in regard to these directives in comparison with other EU states?
  (Dr Batchelor) If I was to be totally honest here, I would say the UK is very pro-active in these debates—very pro-active. I think a lot of the other Member States actually look towards the UK for views on some of these aspects that are coming forward. That is my view, just watching the UK perform in these areas, and DEFRA in this instance has performed a very strong lead role in those negotiations.

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