More Chilling Than Ever – Tackling Europe’s ongoing illegal trade in HFC climate super pollutants

Five years after EIA first revealed a widespread European illegal trade in hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) climate super pollutant gases, a new investigation has revealed that significant levels of trafficking persist, despite the worsening climate emergency.

Commonly used in refrigeration and air-conditioning, HFCs are being phased out under the European Union (EU) F-gas Regulation. Driven by high profits and weak law enforcement, organised criminals are closely associated with this illicit trade.

EIA’s previous investigation, 2021’s Europe’s Most Chilling Crime, highlighted Romania as a key entry point for illegal HFCs arriving in the EU. In our latest investigation, we uncovered evidence of traders routing illegal HFCs (sourced primarily in Türkiye and China) from Europe’s edge – Bulgaria – across the continent to the likes of Greece, Germany, France, Italy, Portugal and Spain.

The investigation demonstrated that traders are becoming more sophisticated and adapting their tactics to elude detection, for example by avoiding banned disposable cylinders and disguising HFCs as less regulated hydrofluoroolefin (HFO) refrigerant alternatives.