Europe reaches provisional F-Gas deal


05 October 2023
Rapporteur Bas Eickhout. Photograph: Mathieu Cugnot. Copyright: European Union 2023

The European Parliament and Council have reached a provisional agreement to further cut fluorinated gases emissions, in line with EU and global climate goals.

The F-Gas Regulation revision has a zero hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) target by 2050, with plans to reduce the EU consumption quota between 2024-2049. Phasing out HFCs consumption in the EU is said to be a clear market signal and would align the updated rules with the EU’s 2050 climate neutrality goal.

Negotiators agreed on strict requirements that prohibit the placing on the EU market of products containing F-gases to stimulate the uptake of more climate-friendly solutions and to provide certainty for manufacturers and investors.

The deal includes specific phase-out dates for the use of F-gases in sectors where it is technologically and economically feasible to switch to alternatives that do not use F-gases, such as domestic refrigeration, air conditioning and heat pumps.

The agreement also covers strict conditions and deadlines for the use of F-gases with high global warming potential for the servicing or maintenance of different types of equipment.

Rapporteur Bas Eickhout (Greens/EFA, NL) said: “We've reached an ambitious deal that would put an end to F-gases. This is crucial, not only because these gases are extremely harmful for the climate, but we are also providing clarity for companies and thereby investment certainty. We are breaking the endless cycle of new chemical cocktails that risk dragging technologies like heat pumps and switchgear – which are key for our energy transition – into the PFAS debate. European companies are already at the forefront of developing clean alternatives to F-gases, so this law will be good for the climate and the European economy."

Parliament and Council need to formally approve the agreement before it can come into force.

The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA UK) says the revised regulation will include new bans on domestic heat pumps and some air conditioners using HFCs with global warming potentials (GWP) of 150 or more from 2027 and 2029. It adds that all F-gases will be banned in these subsectors from 2032 and 2035, heralding an end to the use of hydrofluoroolefins (HFOs) in these sectors.

Welcoming the vote, EIA UK Senior Climate Campaigner Fionnuala Walravens said: “The bans enable Europe to meet renewable heating targets without undue uptake of climate-wrecking refrigerants.

“For the first time, Europe has taken account of the environmental impacts of HFCs and HFOs. The staggered bans provide much-needed certainty for equipment manufacturers and avoid the build-up of persistent PFAS in our environment.”

An alternative view came from the European Partnership for Energy and the Environment (EPEE), representing the refrigeration, air conditioning and heat pump (RACHP) manufacturing industry in Europe, which expressed its disappointment at the revision.

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Director General Russell Patten said: “We have always been in agreement with the principles and goals of the F-Gas Regulation to phase down the use of HFCs and to deliver solutions that enable carbon neutrality by 2050. We believe this agreement will be challenging for the sector to implement given certain unclear provisions linked to the bans.”

EPEE expressed concern that these elements will send contradictory messages to the market and work against the wider contributions F-gases make to decarbonisation. “EPEE and its members are studying the provisional agreement and stand ready to support market actors in the transition,” added Patten.

EPEE noted it supported further improvements on containment measures and certification requirements, and appreciated that these are included in the revision.  “Enhanced containment measures, including leak checks and recovery and recycling procedures, will go a long way to support the HFC phasedown,” said Patten. “Unfortunately, unclear definitions and a complicated quota system add further uncertainty for RACHP equipment manufacturers, especially for heat pumps.”

EPEE said it attempted, with many other industry groups over many months, to urge an energy efficiency and safety-first approach, and to encourage a proper impact assessment for the wide diversity of the RACHP market, in particular for split-type heat pumps, but also for chillers, air conditioning, and dozens of other applications across the market.

“The European Parliament became dogmatic in its insistence of a full F-Gas ban, including ultralow-GWP HFOs and their blends, that is not evidence-based,” said Patten. “Certainly some applications are appropriate for so-called ‘natural’ refrigerants, but not all, and an F-gas ban will put decarbonisation opportunities at risk. This agreement will undoubtedly prolong our reliance on fossil fuels.”

In addition, EPEE said that postponing ban dates with a future review clause may be well intended but does not alleviate industry concerns. The review clause is unusual and points to an inherently flawed regulation. In fact it is not in line with the interinstitutional agreement on better law-making. “It demonstrates that policymakers recognise the agreement is not sufficiently workable in practice,” said Patten.

EPEE expressed hope that industry’s concerns are considered in the final voting stage, and called for the same ambitious approach to be applied to the EPBD and Ecodesign files to decarbonise the rest of the heating industry and break the endless cycle of fossil fuels.

ASERCOM, the refrigeration and sir conditioning component manufacturers' association, described the agreement as a "useful compromise'', adding that it will continue to support the market with all necessary technical and scientific feedback for a safe transition.

President Marco Masini said: "It is a very important result that shows that the Council and the Parliament are listening to industry and citizens to achieve the common goal of decarbonisation without jeopardising social and industrial efforts.

"We were a bit worried, mainly because of the unclear definitions and timing of the phase-out and ban of certain cooling applications. The later positioning of the bans and some openings for exemptions give our members enough time to develop the missing pieces for a safe and sustainable implementation of the European policy by OEMs.