EEA: EU remains on track to phase-down use of climate-damaging F-gases

Consumption of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) by European industry continued to decline in line with EU commitments under United Nations agreements, according to the EEA – European Environment Agency briefing Fluorinated greenhouse gases 2021

The briefing provides an update on the data reported by companies on the production, import, export and destruction of fluorinated greenhouse gases in the EU and the UK for 2007-2020. The briefing also outlines the key trends in the EU supply of F-gases and monitors progress under the hydrofluorocarbon phase-down schemes of the EU’s F-gas Regulation and the UN’s Montreal Protocol and its so-called Kigali Amendment. Industry is substituting these F-gases with more climate-friendly products.

F-gases contribute to climate change and made up 2.3% of total EU greenhouse gas emissions, according to the latest data from 2019. These synthetic chemicals are predominantly used in refrigerators, air conditioners and heat pumps. They are considered potent 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 amounts of F-gases supplied for various industrial applications. These are expressed both in physical amounts (in tonnes) and in ‘global warming amounts’, i.e., physical amounts weighted by the global warming potential of hydrofluorocarbon gases and measured in CO2-equivalent tonnes (CO2e).

EU contribution to global phase-down

In 2020, EU-wide placing of hydrofluorocarbons on the market was 4% below the 2020 overall market limit set by the quota system (2% in 2019). The companies that did not fully use their quota counterbalanced the few cases of quota exceedance by importers of bulk HFCs and equipment importers. While the demand for refrigerants remains high, there has been a shift to 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 decrease from 2015 to 2019. Refrigeration and air conditioning continue to be key applications for these gases.
  • Despite a 7% increase in hydrofluorocarbons (HFC) consumption compared with 2019, EU consumption of HFCs in 2020 was 52% below the maximum imposed by the Montreal Protocol’s Kigali Amendment.
  • The EU remains on track under the HFC phase-down phase of the EU F-gas Regulation: EU-wide placing on the market of HFCs in 2020 was 4% below the market limit.
  • As available HFC quotas have not been fully needed to cover the demand, the reserve of quota authorisations eligible to cover imports of refrigeration, air conditioning and heat pump equipment under the HFC phase-down continues to grow. The current size of the reserve accounts for about seven times the amount of such equipment imported in 2020 or 111% of the 2021 EU maximum quantity of HFCs.