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Committee on Climate Change urges faster shift to lower-GWP and tougher F-Gas regime

Net Zero report from influential govt committee says ‘current policies are not enough’ and calls for clamp down on compliance

The cross-party Committee on Climate Change has called for deeper cuts in use of F-Gases as the UK looks to greenhouse gases down to  ’net zero’ by 2050 - as soon as 2045 for Scotland - requiring a 100 per cent reduction in greenhouse gases: 

The report Net Zero: The UK’s contribution to stopping global warming. sets out in stark terms the actions that will have to be taken if the UK is to limit the rise in global warming.

To meet this new target, the CCC says, will require a thorough overhaul of current low carbon priorities, including deeper cuts in F-Gases, more widespread adoption of low carbon heating and a quadrupling in use of low carbon electricity.

It says the foundations are in place for a ramp-up for the technologies and that the policies required to deliver key pillars of a net-zero economy are already active or in development.  However, it emphasises: “…These policies must be urgently strengthened and must deliver tangible emissions reductions – current policy is not enough even for existing targets.”

The CCC notes that some sections of the RACHP market have been using non-HFC refrigerants for many years, with domestic refrigerators using hydrocarbons and many large industrial refrigeration systems using ammonia.

It notes other areas of the RACHP market are already making ‘very good’ progress, where ultra-low GWP alternative refrigerants are already commercially available for new equipment, such as small sealed and multi-compressor commercial refrigeration; water chiller air-conditioning; and mobile air-conditioning units.

While existing policy is expected to deliver F-gas emissions reductions of 65 per cent from 2017 to 2030, reducing emissions further towards net-zero will require further progress from the RACHP sector.

It adds that existing and future F-gas regulations will only deliver the expected abatement if appropriate compliance measures are in place. It notes the concerns of the Environmental Audit Committee about suspected non-compliance in the F-gas sector, and its recommendation of increasing the number of inspections, expanding training for workers who handle refrigerants, and regularly reviewing the effectiveness of the compliance regime, including the impact of new civil penalties for F-gas breaches.

However, the CCC underlines the fact that there is little current progress towards an alternative in some cooling areas, such as small systems, where high flammability limits the proportion of the market that can safely use hydrocarbon refrigerants. It notes: “It is unlikely that more than 25 per cent of the small sized air-conditioning market and 50 per cent of the residential heat pump market could use hydrocarbons. There is little likelihood of an ultra-low-GWP refrigerant with similar properties to HFC-32 becoming available.”

The Committee also includes evidence from a commissioned report from Ricardo and Gluckman Consulting to investigate the potential to reduce F-gas emissions further and faster than the existing F-Gas Regulation, which considered the cost of abatement measures, non-financial barriers and potential rates of uptake. It concludes that the results from this work show that there is cost-effective potential to go further:

“There is modest potential to reduce RACHP emissions further and faster than the EU F-Gas Regulation. This potential lies in deploying equipment that can use lower-GWP refrigerants (e.g. hydrocarbons or CO₂), replacing the high-GWP refrigerants in some existing equipment with lower-GWP refrigerants, and reducing leakage rates further; In the small-medium building air-conditioning market, ultra-low-GWP non-flammable replacement refrigerants are not available at present and industry has not started to develop these refrigerants. However, recent developments in the car air-conditioning market suggest that there could be some potential to develop not-in-kind systems that use alternative low-GWP refrigerants.

The report sets out scenarios for minimising F-gas emissions. Alongside the core options, generally covered currently by F-Gas, it also sets out ‘Further Ambition’ options, which are more challenging and/or more expensive than the Core options but are all likely to be needed to meet a net-zero target, and ‘Speculative options’ which currently have very low levels of technology readiness, very high costs, or significant barriers to public acceptability. It is very unlikely they would all become available. Some of these options would be required to reach net-zero GHG emissions domestically.

These ‘Further Ambition’ options may be required to deliver the UK’s existing 2050 target and will almost certainly be needed for a net-zero target, the Committee says. These include additional regulations to deliver further reductions in the RACHP sector, including:

  • · Reduced use of R410A in medium sized air-conditioning, replaced with VRF systems using R32
  • · Wider use of propane split air-conditioning
  • · Reduced use of HFO/HFC blends in small commercial, industrial and marine refrigeration
  • · Retrofitting of existing equipment that uses HFCs
  • · Leak reductions through improved design, maintenance and end-of-life recovery.

It concludes that combined, the Further Ambition options could achieve an additional 1.2 million t CO₂e in annual F-gas emissions abatement by 2050.

But in addition, the Committee have identified further Speculative Options which are either not considered cost-effective or technology has not yet been demonstrated.

Along with a series of reductions in inhalers and switchgear, the main RACHP option is to find low GWP alternatives to ultimately replace R32 (saving 0.2 million t CO₂e annually).

Key to achieving this, the report says, is to underpin the industry with a series of measures: maintain a regulatory framework ‘at least as strong as the EU F-Gas Regulation; minimising non-compliance; and increasing training and certification for F-gas users.

The CCC reserves some of its strongest words for the government:  ”The Committee’s conclusion that the UK can achieve a net-zero GHG target by 2050 and at acceptable cost is entirely contingent on the introduction without delay of clear, stable and well-designed policies across the emitting sectors of the economy. Government must set the direction and provide the urgency…”


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