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Fluorinated greenhouse gases (F-gases)

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The impacts of climate change are now being felt everywhere around the globe. Renowned international experts say that the rise in temperature will have disastrous consequences for mankind, which is why climate action is one of our greatest ecological and economic challenges. The Kyoto Protocol is the most important and most prominent milestone of global climate action. It includes not only carbon dioxide (CO2) but also fluorinated greenhouse gases as their impact on the climate is 100 to 24,000 times the impact of CO2.

Role of F-gases

While greenhouse gases are usually undesired by-products, for example, of the combustion of fossil fuels, fluorinated greenhouse gases are generally produced and released intentionally. They are used in similar ways as were chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) or halons, which are responsible for destroying the stratospheric ozone layer.

Fluorinated greenhouse gases are mostly used as cooling agents in refrigeration and air conditioning equipment, but also as blowing agents in insulating foam or as components in fire-extinguishers. In addition to technical measures, substitution of substances or the use of alternative technologies will help to reduce emission of these gases. This is the aim of Regulation (EU) Number 517/2014 on fluorinated greenhouse gases and Directive 2006/40/EC relating to emissions from air-conditioning systems in motor vehicles.

New EU regulation on fluorinated greenhouse gases

In future, Regulation (EU) Number 517/2014 will govern the placing on the market of fluorinated greenhouse gases in the EU. The regulation will enter into force on 1 January 2015 and thus repeal Regulation (EC) Number 842/2006. By 2030 the new regulation will gradually reduce the tradable amounts of hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HFCs) to one third of the amount that can be traded today. It contains bans on uses for F-gases and placing on the market of products containing them. The aim of the new regulation is to gradually reduce the emission of fluorinated greenhouse gases in Europe by 80 percent by 2030, to around 35 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent. Quotas will be introduced to help achieve this target. The regulation also contains a detailed plan to phase out the use of fluorinated gases in many products and equipment.

CFCs and HCFCs

CFCs had been extensively used in many areas due to their technical characteristics and their non-combustible properties. A number of other substances which damage the ozone layer, such as carbon tetrachloride, were used in laboratories.

When it was discovered that these substances were potentially damaging the ozone layer, the international community adopted an international plan – the Montreal Protocol – to phase out the production and use of these substances and implemented it step by step. The joint report "Assessment for Decision-Makers ­– Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion: 2014 by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)", published on 10 September 2014, confirms the success of the Montreal Protocol. The total concentration of all ozone-depleting substances subject to the Montreal Protocol is decreasing, and in the long-term the ozone layer will completely recover.