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Fluorinated greenhouse gases

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Fluorierte Treibhausgase
Gases fluorados de efecto invernadero
Gaz à effet de serre fluorés
Gas fluorurati a effetto serra
Fluorowane gazy cieplarniane
Fluorinated greenhouse gases

Fluorinated greenhouse gases (F-gases), which are widely used in heat pumps, air conditioning and refrigeration equipment, account for a growing proportion of EU greenhouse-gas emissions. In 2012, the European Commission proposed a new regulation to rein in the use of F-gases in the EU. Parliament and Council reached a trilogue agreement on the proposal in December 2013.

Uses and climate impact of F-gases

Fluorinated greenhouse gases

© Vladislav Gajic / Fotolia

F-gases are commonly used in a number of industrial sectors as refrigerants, solvents, isolating gases, foam blowing agents and aerosol pro­­pellants. The potential of these F-gases to cause global warming is hundreds to thousands of times higher than that of CO2. F-gases accounted for 2.2% of EU15 greenhouse-gas emissions in 2011.

Worldwide use of F-gases has increased since the 1990s, when they replaced ozone-destroying substances that were phased out under the 1987 Montreal Protocol on substances that deplete the ozone layer. With growing demand for refrigeration and air conditioning, especially in developing countries, F-gases could account for 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, up from 1.3% in 2004. The EU, G20, US and China support international efforts to limit the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFC) – the most important group of F-gases – under the Montreal Protocol, but no agreement on this was reached at the last Meeting of the Parties in October 2013.

Revision of EU legislation

The 2006 F-gas Regulation aims at avoiding use of F-gases where alternatives exist, and at preventing leakage. It also introduces reporting requirements. In its resolution of 14 September 2011 on climate-relevant non-CO2 emissions, the European Parliament called for a revision of the Regulation, which it considered to be ineffective.

In November 2012, the Commission proposed a new F-gas regulation which would limit production and use, and restrict the use of F-gases with very high climate impact in some sectors. It aims at gradually reducing the supply of HFCs in the EU by 2030 to 21% of today’s levels. HFC manufacturers and importers would receive annually declining quotas for placing F-gases on the market, based on past market share.

European Parliament

The Environment Committee’s report (rapporteur Bas Eickhout, Greens/EFA, Netherlands) called for faster and deeper reductions, reaching 16% of today’s consumption by 2030, and for the substitution of F-gases by safe, energy-efficient and cost-efficient alternatives for several additional sectors. Moreover, it proposed charging producers a fee for their use of F-gases (up to €10 per tonne of CO2-equivalent).

In December 2013, the EP and Council reached a trilogue agreement. The main points of the agreed text are:

  • The “phase-down” schedule remains as initially proposed by the Commission;
  • F-gases with high climate impact will be banned in stationary refrigeration systems from 2022, and in stationary air conditioning from 2025;
  • The issue of pricing or auctioning of quotas is addressed through a review clause that empowers the Commission to assess the method for allocating quotas.

Stakeholder positions

The refrigeration industry welcomes the trilogue agreement and believes it will “position the EU as a strong actor”. Environmental groups welcome the fact that an agreement has been reached but would have preferred stronger rules.

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European Parliamentary Research Service of the European Parliament. The EPRS offers the best available research and analytical support to Members of the European Parliament, their staff, parliamentary committees and, of course, to you!

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