Fluorinated gases and ozone depleting substances: Council and Parliament reach agreement

The Council and the Parliament negotiators reached a provisional political agreement to phase down substances that cause global warming and deplete the ozone layer.

This provisional agreement finalises negotiations on fluorinated gases and confirms an informal agreement found in June on ozone depleting substances.

While existing EU legislation has already limited the use of these gases significantly, the new rules would further reduce their emissions into the atmosphere and contribute to limiting global temperature rise, in line with the Paris Agreement.

“I am extremely satisfied with the agreement that we reached today on fluorinated gases, which goes hand-in-hand with the work we have carried out on ozone depleting substances. Such substances have highly negative impacts on the health of our planet and must be phased down. The agreement is an important step in our common goal to fight climate change and will help us reach our ambitious climate goals.”
Teresa Ribera Rodríguez, Spanish minister for the ecological transition and the demographic challenge

Fluorinated gases

According to the provisional agreement, the consumption of hydrofluorocarbons (HFC) will be completely phased out by 2050. On the other hand, the production of HFC, in terms of production rights allocated by the Commission to produce HFC, will be phased down to a minimum (15%) as of 2036. Both the production and consumption will be phased down according to a tight schedule with a degressive quota allocation (Annexes V and VII). The agreement introduces a higher quota allocation in the first two periods compared to the Commission proposal. Semi-conductors would be exempted from the HFC quota allocation system, as proposed by the Commission, and the feasibility of the phase out for the consumption of HFC and the need for HFC in sectors where they are still used would be reviewed in 2040, taking into account technological developments and the availability of alternatives to HFCs for the relevant applications.

The text introduces a full ban on placing the products and equipment containing HFC on the market for several categories, including certain domestic refrigerators, chillers, foams and aerosols (Annex IV). It brings forward some deadlines for the bans and extends them to products that use F-gases with a lesser global-warming potential (GWP). For all the new bans an exemption is foreseen if there are safety concerns.

The provisional agreement introduces a full F-gas ban on small (<12kW) monoblock heat pumps and air conditioning that contain F-gases with a GWP of at least 150 starting in 2027, and a complete phase-out in 2032. In regard to split air conditioning and heat pumps, the co-legislators agreed on a full f-gas ban starting in 2035, with earlier deadlines for certain types of split systems with higher global-warming potential. Exemptions are foreseen in case this equipment is needed to meet safety requirements. The provisional agreement also includes the possibility to release a limited number of additional quotas for heat pumps if the proposed bans were to endanger the attainment of the heat pump deployment target required under REPowerEU.

The text also sets a new full ban for medium voltage switchgears relying on F-gases, with a gradual phase out by 2030, and a ban for high voltage switchgears by 2032. It introduces a cascading principle that sets potential derogations for the bans depending on the bidding process for F-gas-free alternatives. It includes a possibility for high voltage switchgear to use the very potent greenhouse gas SF6 as a last resort in the cascading principle and adds a number of safeguards in order to avoid that the bans endanger the functioning of the electric grids.

The provisional agreement introduces a ban on some equipment needed to repair and service existing equipment. From 2025 servicing equipment for refrigeration equipment that use F-gases with high global warming potential will be banned unless the gases are reclaimed or recycled, in which case they benefit from a derogation until 2030. A similar ban is introduced for servicing equipment for air conditioning and heat pump equipment for 2026 with a derogation for reclaimed or recycled gases until 2032. A servicing ban for stationary refrigeration equipment designed to cool products to temperatures below -50°C, would apply for F-gases with lower global warming potential starting in 2032, including a permanent derogation when using recycled or reclaimed gases.

The text sets the HFCs quota allocation price at €3, adjustable for inflation. Part of the revenues would be used to cover the administrative costs of the implementation of the F-gas Regulation and the rest will go to general EU budget.

The text sets a mandatory extended producer responsibility (EPR) scheme from 1 January 2028 for F-gases in products and equipment which fall under the categories of electrical and electronic equipment according to the Directive 2012/19/EU (on waste electrical and electronic equipment, WEEE).

The provisional text provides that member states will set rules on effective, proportionate and dissuasive penalties applicable to infringements. The penalties should include at least fines, confiscation of products, temporary exclusion of public procurement, and temporary trade bans. They should be compatible with the Environmental Crime Directive and with national legal systems. They should be above a set minimum quantitative threshold if member states decide to set a threshold.

Ozone depleting substances

The provisional agreement confirmed that ODS are prohibited in almost all uses with strictly limited exemptions. The text includes an exemption for the use of ODS as feedstock to produce other substances. The Commission will be tasked to regularly update a list ODS for which the use as feedstock is banned. An assessment of the availability of alternatives for feedstocks is primarily done at the international level, under the Montreal Protocol. However, as a safeguard, if the international expert panel fails to do so in a certain time-frame, the Commission would make an assessment of viable alternatives.

The text would also allow ODS under strict conditions as process agents, in laboratories and for fire protection in special applications such as military equipment and airplanes.

The provisional agreement extends the requirement to recover ODS for destruction, recycling or reclamation to new sectors compared to the Commission proposal. The requirement will cover refrigeration, air-conditioning and heat pump equipment, equipment containing solvents or fire protection systems and fire extinguishers and other equipment if technically and economically feasible.

The text also extends to all ODS the requirement on undertakings to take precautions to prevent and minimise an unintentional release of ozone depleting substances and to ensure that any detected leakage is repaired without undue delay.

Next steps

Both provisional agreements will now be submitted to the member states representatives within the Council (Coreper) and to the Parliament’s environment committee for endorsement. If approved, the text will be formally adopted by both institutions, before it can be published in the EU’s Official Journal and enter into force.