Hydrofluorocarbon phase-down in Europe

After increasing for two decades, fluorinated greenhouse gas (F-gas) emissions peaked in 2014 in the EU and then decreased by about 20% by 2020. This can be partly attributed to the EU-wide hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) phase-down set out in the F-gas Regulation, which aims to reduce F-gas emissions and mitigate global warming. HFCs account for the majority of F-gas emissions and the EU is on track to meet targets and phase down HFC use by 2030. It is also on track to meet its international obligation to reduce HFC consumption, in effect since 2019, under the Montreal Protocol.

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  • HFC: hydrofluorocarbons; POM: placed on the market; RACHP: refrigeration, air conditioning and heat pump.
  • Data shown for 2021 are preliminary and subject to further validation by the European Commission. Values from 2007 to 2013 are based on the reporting obligations of the old F-gas Regulation (EC) No 842/2006 and are therefore not fully comparable with data from 2014 onwards (based on obligations under the current F-gas Regulation (EU) No 517/2014.
  • The geographical scope of presented POM data: EU-27 for 2007-2012, EU-28 for 2013-2019, EU-27 + UK for 2020 and EU-27 for 2021 (Croatia is included in the entire time series except for the period 2007-2008). The maximum quantities of the EU HFC phase-down shown for 2015-2019 apply to EU-28, for 2020 to EU-27 and UK, and to EU-27 for 2021 onwards.
  • Fluorinated greenhouse gases (F-gases) — which include hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), sulphur hexafluoride (SF6) and nitrogen trifluoride (NF3) — contribute to global warming. These gases are used in a range of applications, but the refrigeration, air conditioning and heating sector account for the majority of F-gas use in the EU. Between 1990 and 2014, emissions of F-gases in the EU increased by around 70% overall and accounted for about 3% of all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (see EEA GHG data viewer). This increase was largely because of the substitution of ozone-depleting hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) with HFCs in the refrigeration, air conditioning and heat pump sector and the growth of this sector as a whole. The F-gas Regulation aims to reduce F-gas emissions by two thirds of 2010 levels by 2030, by improving the leak-tightness of equipment, promoting the use of more environmentally friendly alternatives to F-gases and capping sales of HFCs on the EU market through an HFC phase-down.

    The EU-wide HFC phase-down is, in particular, expected to result in large reductions in F-gas use and emissions, as HFCs account for the vast majority of F-gas emissions (around 90% in 2020). To place bulk HFC gases on the market, companies must hold sufficient quotas, which are expressed in tonnes of CO2 equivalents to create an incentive to use gases with lower global warming potential. The maximum quantities of quotas are set to progressively decrease from 2015 until 2030 (Figure 1). The quantity of HFCs placed on the market in the EU was particularly high in 2014 before the phase-down began, but since then has declined markedly, and was below the maximum quantity set by the F-gas Regulation in 2015 and in each year since. Thus, the EU is on track to meet its HFC phase down targets. Since 2017, HFCs in imported refrigeration, air conditioning and heat pump equipment have also been included in the quota system by means of quota authorisations that equipment importers acquire from quota holders. While the HFC phase-down under the F-gas Regulation jointly applied to the EU-27 and the UK until 2020, the maximum quota quantities for 2021 onwards have been adjusted to the EU-27 scope.

    Additional efforts have been undertaken at EU and Member State levels to reduce HFC leakage from refrigeration and air conditioning equipment, encourage the recovery of gases at the end of equipment lifetime, promote the use of non-HFC refrigerants and ban the use of HFCs for certain applications. Along with those efforts, the HFC phase-down process has, after two decades of increases, had an impact on F-gas emissions, which peaked in 2014 and have been decreasing by about 20% until 2020.

    For more information on underlying trends in the EU supply of HFCs and other fluorinated gases please refer to the ETC CM Report 2022/3 (Fluorinated greenhouse gases 2022) , available on the ETC CM website.

  • HFC: hydrofluorocarbons
  • The geographical scope of presented HFC consumption data is EU-28 except Croatia for 2007-2008, EU-28 for 2009-2019, EU-27+UK for 2020 and EU-27 from 2021 onwards.
  • The HFC consumption limit under the Montreal Protocol is shown for EU-27+UK for 2019 and 2020 and for EU-27 from 2021 onwards.
  • At international level, HFC consumption is regulated under the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol. In accordance with the 2016 amendment, which came into effect in 2019, developed and developing countries have committed to an HFC phase-down by meeting progressively decreasing HFC consumption targets so that their HFC consumption levels are 15% of 2019 levels by 2036. The EU is well on track to comply with its obligations under the Montreal Protocol: in 2019 and 2020, the EU-28 HFC consumption was 55% and 52% below its initial target for those years. In 2021, EU-27 HFC consumption was 60% below the Montreal Protocol target recalculated to the EU-27 geographical scope.

    For explanations on the differences between the ‘consumption’ metric used under the Montreal Protocol and ‘Placing on the Market’ used under the F-gas regulation, as well as more information on underlying trends in the EU supply of HFCs and other fluorinated gases please refer to the ETC CM Report 2022/3, available on the ETC CM website.

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