Production, sales and emissions of fluorinated greenhouse gases (F-gases) (CLIM 048) - Assessment published Apr 2013
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 tripled since 1990.
In addition to domestic EU production and sales of F-gases, significant amounts of F-gases are also imported and exported. Imports generally increased over the period 2007–2011, while EU production has stabilised at levels that are around 20 % lower than those reported in 2007. When expressed in metric tonnes, data for the reporting year 2011 show a decrease in production (-5 %), import (-6 %) and intra-EU sales (-12 %) of F-gases compared to the previous year.
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 consumption 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). The 2009 reduction in F-gas emissions was very likely caused by the economic crisis in that year. 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 17% and 60% 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 more than tripled since 1990 and more than doubled since 1995. The HFC share of total F-gas emissions has risen from 47 % in 1990 to 59 % in 1995, and to 90 % in 2010.
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.
In total, 120 companies reported production, sales, import or export of F-gases for 2011, an increase of 12 % on the previous year. In absolute tonnes of gas, there was a decrease reported in production (-5 %), imports (-6 %) and intra-EU sales (-12 %) of F-gases between 2010 and 2011. Exports increased by 5 %. When these values are expressed in terms of global warming potential (GWP)-weighted emissions, different patterns emerge due to the large differences in GWP values of certain F-gases. An increase is still evident in exported F-gases (+12 %), but now also for production (+1 %). There were decreases in both imports (-8 %) and sales (-11 %).
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.
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 Plan2013 1.3.4 (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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