The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) is calling on the European Union (EU) to phase out fluorinated greenhouse gases by 2020.
EIA’s new position paper End in Sight: Phasing Out Fluorinated Greenhouse Gases shows that with simple revisions to the F-Gas Regulation, currently under review, Europe could eliminate the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), a family of potent greenhouse gases hundreds to thousands of times more powerful than carbon dioxide.
HFCs are chemicals used largely in refrigeration and air conditioning. They currently comprise approximately two per cent of European greenhouse gas emissions but their use is rising rapidly. By 2050, HFCs could make up to 19 per cent of global emissions.
The European Commission has opened a public consultation on revisions to the F-Gas Regulation, which currently relies on expensive yet ineffective containment measures to prevent the gases leaking into the atmosphere.
“The current F-Gas Regulation, which allows companies to use these gases when cost-effective and energy-efficient alternatives are available, is simply not working. Since adoption in 2006, emissions of these gases have actually risen by 20 per cent, which means a new approach is needed. It is time to phase out these chemicals for good,” said EIA campaigner Alasdair Cameron.
According to the EIA, a phase-out of F-gases in the EU, based on prohibitions on use and placement in products, would save at least 60 million tonnes of CO2-equivalent per year (equivalent to 10 per cent of the UK’s annual greenhouse gas emissions) by 2030.
“This is a golden opportunity to eliminate HFCs, one of the world’s big six greenhouse gases,” added Cameron. “Failing to press ahead with a phase-out would be a major mistake.”
EIA’s key points are:
• EIA calls for an EU-wide phase-out of HFCs by 2020, through a combination of use bans and restrictions on new equipment;
• The F-Gas Regulation has failed to reduce HFC emissions, which have risen by 20 percent since it was introduced in 2006;
• Containment and recovery are expensive, costing about €40 per tonne CO2-equivalent;
• Climate-friendly, commercially and technologically viable alternatives to HFCs are available in all major sectors;
• The EU’s domestic actions have a considerable impact at international level and in this instance could lead the way in phasing out F-gases worldwide, both by setting an example and providing model legislation easily adapted/adopted by others.