Brussels, 26 September 2011
The European Commission today launched a public consultation on strengthening EU measures to reduce emissions of fluorinated gases, a group of industrial gases which are extremely powerful contributors to global warming.
A Commission review,1 which was also adopted today, concludes that the EU's existing Regulation on fluorinated gases ('F-gases') is having a significant impact but that, without further measures, F-gas emissions are expected to remain at today's levels in the long term.
The review identifies wide scope for further cost-effective emission reductions, mainly due to the growing feasibility of replacing F-gases in several sectors with alternatives that make less or no contribution to climate change. Potentially the EU could eliminate up to two thirds of today's fluorinated gas emissions by 2030, it finds.
Connie Hedegaard, European Commissioner for Climate Action, said: "The EU Regulation on fluorinated gases has successfully broken a growing trend in emissions and driven technological innovation. However, making the transition to a competitive low-carbon EU economy by 2050 requires ambitious action to cut emissions from all sectors. It is clear there is considerable scope for cost-effective reductions in F-gas emissions and following the public consultation I intend to propose new legislative measures next year."
The consultation runs until 19 December 2011 and is addressed to all interested stakeholders.
The potential policy options being consulted on include new voluntary agreements, bans for new products and equipment and the introduction of a scheme for phasing-down the placing of HFCs on the EU market.
The Commission's review of the 2006 F-gas Regulation shows that this measure and a parallel Directive addressing the use of fluorinated gases in mobile air conditioning are already contributing to the achievement of EU and Member State emission reduction targets under the Kyoto Protocol. The policy is expected to prevent almost half of projected F-gas emissions by 2050 if shortcomings in their implementation and enforcement are rectified. The Commission therefore calls upon Member States to intensify their efforts in this respect.
However, despite these significant impacts of the current legislation, total F-gas emissions are not expected to decrease in the long term compared to today's level. This is because they are being used in a growing number of appliances, such as air conditioners and refrigeration. These are, however, among the sectors where the use of alternatives is becoming increasingly feasible.
F-gases currently account for some 2% of EU greenhouse gas emissions. Stabilisation of F-gas emissions at today's levels, without further measures, means that their share could grow substantially in future.
The greenhouse gases covered by the Kyoto Protocol include three 'families' of fluorinated gases: hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorcarbons (PFCs) and sulphur hexafluoride (SF6). Per tonne, the contribution of individual F-gases to global warming is between 140 and 23,900 times higher2 than that of carbon dioxide (CO2), the most common greenhouse gas.
F-gases have been increasingly used in a range of industrial applications including air conditioning (HFCs), refrigeration and fire extinguishers (HFCs and PFCs), electronics, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics production (PFCs), and magnesium and aluminium production and high-voltage switches (SF6).
In 2006 two separate legislative acts were adopted with the aim of reversing this trend in order to help the EU and Member States meet their Kyoto Protocol emissions targets.
Directive 2006/EC/40 ("MAC Directive") targets mobile air conditioning, prohibiting use of F-gases with high global warming potentials from 2011.
Regulation (EC) No 842/2006 ("F-gas Regulation") covers certain F-gases in all other applications, focusing on the key stationary applications such as refrigeration and air conditioning. It aims to prevent leaks from equipment containing those gases. Contrary to the MAC Directive, the Regulation includes only a few restrictions on the use of F-gases.
For more information and to participate in the consultation, see the following site: