EU remains on track to gradually reduce the use of climate-damaging fluorinated gases – European Environment Agency

Consumption of hydrofluorocarbons (HFC) by European industry continued to decline in line with EU commitments under UN agreements, according to EEA briefing “Fluorinated greenhouse gases 2021”.

The briefing provides an update on data reported by companies on the production, import, export and destruction of fluorinated greenhouse gases in the EU and the UK for the period 2007-2020. The presentation also describes the main trends in EU supply of fluorinated gases and monitors progress within the framework of the hydrofluorocarbon phase-down programs of the EU regulation on fluorinated gases and the UN Montreal Protocol and its Kigali amendment. Industry is replacing these fluorinated gases with more climate-friendly products.

Fluorinated gases contribute to climate change and composed 2.3% of total EU greenhouse gas emissions, according to the latest data from 2019. These synthetic chemicals are mainly used in refrigerators, air conditioners and heat pumps. They are considered powerful greenhouse gases and have been regulated in the EU since 2006 to reduce their use and impact on global warming.

The EEA assessment also details the different quantities of fluorinated gases supplied for various industrial applications. These are expressed both in physical quantities (in tonnes) and in “global warming quantities”, that is to say physical quantities weighted by the global warming potential of hydrofluorocarbon gases and measured in CO2-tons equivalent (CO2e).

EU contribution to the global phase-down

In 2020, the placing on the market of hydrofluorocarbons at EU level was 4% below the overall market limit set for 2020 by the quota system (2% in 2019). Companies not fully utilizing their quota have offset the few instances of quota overruns by bulk HFC importers and equipment importers. While the demand for refrigerants remains high, there has been a move towards alternatives with lower global warming potential (GWP).

Other key findings:

  • In 2020, the total supply of fluorinated gases (F gases) to the EU increased slightly after a continuous decline from 2015 to 2019. Refrigeration and air conditioning remain key applications for these gases.
  • Despite a 7% increase in hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) consumption compared to 2019, European HFC consumption in 2020 was 52% lower than the maximum imposed by the Kigali amendment of the Montreal Protocol.
  • EU remains on track with HFC phase-down phase of EU F-Gas Regulation: EU-wide HFC market entry in 2020 was 4 % below market limit.
  • As the available HFC quotas were not entirely necessary to cover demand, the reserve of eligible quota authorizations to cover imports of refrigeration, air conditioning and heat pump equipment as part of the progressive reduction of HFCs continue to grow. The current size of the reserve is around seven times the amount of such equipment imported in 2020, or 111% of the EU’s maximum amount of HFCs in 2021.

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