Production, sales and emissions of fluorinated greenhouse gases (F-gases) (CLIM 048) - Assessment published Mar 2014
Climate change (Primary topic)
Typology: Policy-effectiveness indicator (Type D)
- CLIM 048
Key policy question: What progress is being made in reducing emissions of fluorinated greenhouse gases?
Since 1990, EU-27 F-gas emissions have experienced significant growth, more than offsetting an intermittent decrease between 1997 and 2001. While PFCs and SF6 emissions have been reduced to a significant degree, a major rise is observed for HFCs emissions which have almost tripled since 1990.
In addition to domestic EU production and net supply of F-gases, significant amounts of F-gases are also imported and exported. Production appears to stabilise slightly above 2008 levels after the sharp decline that was observed from 2007 to 2009. Imports of F-gases grew from 2007 to 2008, experienced a dip in the 'economic crisis' year of 2009 and have been on the decline since 2010. Similar to production data, exports (when measured in metric tonnes) appear to stabilise close to 2008 levels after the sharp decline that was observed from 2007 to 2009. When measured in CO2-equivalents, however, 2011 and 2012 export levels exceed the 2007 starting point, mainly due to increasing SF6 exports. Finally, the longer-term trend for EU net supply shows a stabilisation at levels which are close to the 'economic crisis' year 2009.
Context: Fluorinated greenhouse gases (F-gases) covered by the UNFCCC’s Kyoto Protocol comprise hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs) and sulphur hexafluoride (SF6). These F-gases typically have very long lifetimes in the atmosphere and high global warming potentials (GWPs). The gases are mostly produced for use in products and equipment in the refrigeration and air conditioning sector, foams, fire protection etc. Emissions take place mainly due to leakage during the use phase or due to failure to fully recover the F-gases at the end of the product/equipment lifetime. Future F-gas emissions are thus largely determined by (i) present day use of F-gases and (ii) measures to prevent leakage and encourage recovery.
Greenhouse gases covered by the UNFCCC Kyoto Protocol include amongst others, three groups of fluorinated greenhouse gases (the so-called 'F-gases'):
- hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs)
- perfluorocarbons (PFCs) and
- sulphur hexafluoride (SF6).
These F-gases typically have very long lifetimes in the atmosphere and high global warming potentials (GWPs). Many F-gases are used as replacements for ozone-depleting substances (ODS) across various applications. As ozone-depleting substances are largely being phased out in the EU in compliance with the Montreal Protocol and the EU Regulation (EC) No 1005/2009, the future use of F-gases has a considerable potential for growth.
F-gases are mostly produced for use in products and equipment in the refrigeration and air conditioning sector, foams, fire protection etc. Emissions take place mainly due to leakage and upon failure to fully recover the F-gases at the end of the product/equipment lifetime. Future F-gas emissions are thus largely determined by (i) the present day consumption of F-gases and (ii) technical measures to prevent leakage and encourage recovery.
The emissions of fluorinated greenhouse gases (F-gases) in the EU-27 Member States rose steeply in the 1990s, before declining between 1997 and 2001. Since 2001, emissions have continued to rise steadily (Figure 1). In contrast to the general rising trend for EU-27 F-gas emissions as a whole, emissions of PFCs and SF6 have been considerably reduced, by 82 % and 41 % respectively since 1990. The overall growth in total F-gas emissions is therefore due to an increase in emissions of HFCs, whose main use is as refrigerants. HFC emissions have almost tripled since 1990 and more than doubled since 1995. The HFC share of total F-gas emissions has risen from 47 % in 1990 to 58 % in 1995, and to 89 % in 2011.
Several legislative instruments in the European Union target F-gases – for details see the indicator specification. Since 2007, data on the EU production, bulk imports, bulk exports and destruction of F-gases have been centrally collected. Imports and exports of F-gases contained in products (e.g. foams) or equipment (e.g. vehicles, air-conditioning equipment, medical dose inhalers, electrical equipment) are not included in the statistics. An overview of information is provided by EEA in its annual fluorinated greenhouse gases report. It should be noted that the assessment of trends is dependent upon the unit used to express the amounts of F-gases, i.e. physical metric tonnes or GWP-weighted tonnes (CO2‑equivalents). Statistics in metric tonnes reflects the use patterns of F-gases in absolute terms, while F-gas usage expressed as CO2-equivalents also reflects the potential relevance for climate change policy.
In total, 129 companies reported production, import or export of F-gases for 2012, an increase of 7 % on the previous year. When expressed in metric tonnes, key parameters for the reporting year 2012 show the following trends: similar production (+ 0.4 %) and export (+ 0.5 %) of F-gases; sharp decrease in imports (– 8 %) and slight decrease in EU net supply (1.1 %). When data is expressed in CO2‑equivalents however (Figure 2), the picture of trends is only slightly different; a distinct decrease is still observed for imported F-gases (10 %), and a slight decrease is evident for net supply (1.3 %). Export remains rather constant (0.4 %). A visible increase in production is observed compared to last year (+ 2.6 %).
Significant amounts of F-gases are imported and exported; the sum of imports into the EU and exports from the EU usually exceed domestic production. According to a 2011 study for the European Commission (Schwarz et al. 2011), imported quantities of F-gases contained in pre-charged equipment represented almost 13 % (measured in physical tonnes) of the import of bulk F-gases in 2008. Export of F-gases contained in pre-charged equipment was estimated to represent ca. 42 % of the exported bulk quantities. Converted to GWP-tonnage the respective shares are 11 % (imports) and 34 % (exports).
Specific policy question: In which sectors are fluorinated greenhouse gases used?
The majority of F-gases are used as refrigerants in refrigeration and air-conditioning equipment, both mobile and stationary. Here, mostly HFCs are used. The second largest application sector is electrical equipment (SF6). Due to the extremely high GWP of SF6, the application’s share is rather small if measured in physical tonnes as compared to GWP-weighted tonnage. Other relevant application sectors are aerosols, fire protection and foams, all of which mostly use HFCs (Figure 3).
Specific policy question: Answer to unknown question
Fluorinated greenhouse gases (aggregated data)
provided by Directorate-General for Climate Action (DG-CLIMA) ,
National emissions reported to the UNFCCC and to the EU Greenhouse Gas Monitoring Mechanism
provided by Directorate-General for Environment (DG ENV) , United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)
More information about this indicator
See this indicator specification for more details.
Contacts and ownership
EEA Contact InfoPeder Gabrielsen
EEA Management Plan2014 1.2.2 (note: EEA internal system)
Frequency of updates
For references, please go to www.eea.europa.eu/soer or scan the QR code.
This briefing is part of the EEA's report The European Environment - State and Outlook 2015. The EEA is an official agency of the EU, tasked with providing information on Europe’s environment.
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