In which sectors are fluorinated greenhouse gases used?

Policy Question
Indicator codes: CSI 044 , CLIM 048

Key messages

Fluorinated greenhouse gases reported under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change accounted for approximately 3 % of overall greenhouse gas emissions expressed in tonnes COequivalent in the EU in 2016. Hydrofluorocarbons account for more than 90 % of fluorinated greenhouse gas emissions. Remaining emissions are accounted for by perfluorinated greenhouse gases, i.e. perfluorocarbons, sulphur hexafluoride and nitrogen trifluoride.

The year 2015 was the first year of declining fluorinated greenhouse emissions (3 %) in the EU in 15 years. In 2016, total fluorinated greenhouse gas emissions rose by 0.6 % due to increases in perfluorocarbons and sulphur hexafluoride, while hydrofluorocarbons decreased further by 0.1 %.

For most applications of fluorinated greenhouse gases, there is a significant time lag between the supply of these gases for industrial use and emissions: emissions mainly occur through the leakage of gases contained in products or equipment, or at the end of the product or equipment lifetime if fluorinated greenhouse gases are not fully recovered and destroyed or re-used.

The supply of fluorinated greenhouse gases to the EU, measured in CO2 equivalents, has been decreasing since 2010, with the exception of 2014, which saw extraordinarily high levels of hydrofluorocarbon imports prior to the EU-wide hydrofluorocarbon phase-down, coming into effect in 2015 under the EU F-gas Regulation (Regulation (EU) No 517/2014). Hydrofluorocarbons account for 80 % of present fluorinated greenhouse gas supply and are used primarily as refrigerants in refrigeration, air conditioning and heat pump equipment. Other important uses of hydrofluorocarbons include as foam-blowing agents and in aerosols. Perfluorinated greenhouse gases (20 % of supply in 2016) are mainly used as protective gases in electrical equipment and as etching agents in electronics manufacture.

The supply of unsaturated hydrofluorocarbons and hydrochlorofluorocarbons that have low global warming potential approximately doubled each year from 2014 to 2017, replacing hydrofluorocarbons that have high global warming potential. Trends in the use of non-halogenated refrigerants, however, which can also substitute hydrofluorocarbons, are not covered by statistics.

The EU is on track to phase down the use of hydrofluorocarbons, in terms of both complying, since 2015, with its internal targets under the EU F-Gas Regulation and reaching the hydrofluorocarbon consumption limit, coming into effect in 2019, under the Montreal Protocol.

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