UK Progress on reducing F-gas Emissions Contents

1Introduction

What are F-gases and why do they matter?

1.Fluorinated gases (F-gases) are a family of artificial gases used in various industrial applications. The most common types are Hydro-flourocarbons (HFCs), which account for 95% of F-gas emissions and are mainly used as refrigerants or in foams, aerosols and fire extinguishers.1 Sulphur-hexaflouride (SF6), which represent 3% of F-gas emissions, is used mainly as an insulating gas for high voltage switch gear and in magnesium casting and military applications. Perflourocarbons (PFCs), which account for 2% of F-gas emissions are typically used in the electronics sector (e.g. cleaning silicon wafers).2

2.HFCs were developed in the 1990s as substitutes for ozone-depleting substances such as chloroflorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrochloroflourocarbons (HCFCs).3 While HFCs do not deplete the ozone layer, they are powerful greenhouse gases (GHGs).4 The potency of gases in impacting upon climate change is measured by their Global Warming Potential (GWP). It compares the amount of heat trapped by a certain mass of the gas to the amount of heat trapped by a similar mass of CO2, where CO2 has a value of one.5 A gas which traps twice as much heat as CO2 would have a GWP of 2, for example. HFCs and F-gases more generally, often have a GWP several thousand times more powerful than CO2 and can persist in the atmosphere for many years after they have been released. See Box 1 below.6 For more detail regarding F-gases see the Appendix.

Box 1: GWP and Longevity of Different F-gases

Type of F-gas

Global Warming Potential (GWP)

Lifetime in Atmosphere

HFCs

Up to 14,800

Up to 270 years

PFCs

7,390 to 12,200

2,600 to 50,000 years

SF6

22,800

3,200 years

NF3

17,200

740 years

3.Policy has focused on introducing lower GWP alternatives. However, there are some concerns with some of the lower GWP F-gas alternatives. Some, such as carbon dioxide (GPW 1), have to be used and stored at higher pressure. This requires more energy, with the possibility that reductions in direct emissions can be offset or exceeded by indirect energy emissions.7 Others, such as propane and butane are highly flammable, while Hydrofluoroolefins (HFOs) are mildly flammable, which either rule out their use or require technicians to oversee their use and storage.8 Alternatives, such as ammonia, are toxic and require special care. In some cases, the cost of producing or acquiring the alternative substance can be a barrier along with those of installation, retrofitting, maintenance and (re)training.9

F-gases and Climate Change

4.F-gases are currently released in small amounts, mainly through leakages from appliances, but reducing them can make an important contribution to reducing global warming. The United Nations Environment Programme states that international efforts to reduce HFCs (i.e. the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol), are expected to avoid up to 0.5° Celsius warming by the end of the century.10 The Kigali amendment is also significant because it is achievable and supported by stakeholders including industry. The 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change contains a commitment to limit global temperature rises to no more than 2°C, and pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase ambitions to no more than 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. This means reductions in F-gases are equal to the difference between the Paris Agreement’s agreed target of reducing global temperature rises across this century by 2°Celsius and the more ambitious target of 1. 5°, which nations are endeavouring to meet, and which would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change.11 The difference between 1.5°C and 2.0°C is thought to mean the difference between 10cm of global sea level rises by 2100, and is “likely to be decisive for the future of coral reefs”.12

5.The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) estimate that F-gases accounted for about 3% of overall UK GHG emissions in 2015.13 However, there has been increasing demand for their use, especially in air conditioning and refrigeration, in part due to increases in global temperatures.14 They are tracked in the UK by the CCC as part of UK efforts to reduce GHG emissions and deliver on UK commitments made under the Kyoto Protocol and Paris Agreement.15

What action is being taken to address F-gases?

6.When it was realised by scientists that F-gases were powerful GHGs,16 steps were taken to reduce them by industry,17 governments and international organisations. This took the form of using industrial abatement technologies during the 1990s to reduce emissions from one type of F-gas—halocarbons.18 However, after cuts to emissions of halocarbons in the late 1990s, F-gas emissions began to increase again, mainly due to increased demand for HFC refrigerants. This is set out in Box 2 below.19

Box 2: GHG emission from F-gases by source and type of gas (1990–2015)

EU action on F-gases

7.After action on reducing halocarbons, efforts then focused on reducing other F-gases, especially HFCs. The EU has done this through two main routes. First, through two regulations: the 2006 F-Gas Regulation ((EU) 842/2006) and the 2014 F-Gas Regulation ((EU) 517/2014) and, secondly, the 2006 Mobile Air Conditioning (MAC) Directive. The MAC Directive introduced a phasing out of high GWP refrigerants (e.g. R134a) in cars and light vans and stipulates that the recovery of F-gases from such vehicles must be carried out by trained and certified persons..20

8.The 2006 F-gas Regulation introduced several measures, such as:

9.The first F-gas Regulation and related regulations were implemented in the UK by the Flourinated Greenhouse Gases Regulations 2008.22

10.The 2014 F-gas Regulation, which came into effect in January 2015, aims to cut EU F-gas emissions by two-thirds by 2030. It sought to do this with a market-based approach with progressive cuts to HFCs through a quota system run by the European Environment Agency. Compliance is enforced by Member States.23 In England, this is the responsibility of the Environment Agency, in Scotland the Scottish Environment Protection Agency,24 in Wales Natural Resources Wales,25 and in Northern Ireland, the Northern Ireland Environment Agency.26 The intention was to drive up the costs of high GWP HFCs, especially refrigerants, encouraging conversion to cheaper low GWP alternatives and innovation where alternatives are not currently available. The 2014 F-gas Regulation includes several exemptions: metered dose asthma inhalers; military equipment; appliances that require an evaporation point below 50C. The 2014 F-gas Regulation will be reviewed by the European Commission in 2022. The 2014 F-gas Regulation was implemented in the UK by the Fluorinated Greenhouse Gases Regulations 2015, which came into force in March 2015.27

International action on F-gases

11.In 1987, UN countries agreed the adoption of the Montreal Protocol which seeks to limit the abundance of ozone depleting substances in the atmosphere.28The Protocol came into force on 1st January 1989. It has been amended several times as new scientific evidence and information has supported the acceleration of further steps to reduce such substances in the atmosphere.29 In December 2016, UN countries agreed the adoption of the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol.30 This amendment, rather than focusing on ozone depleting substances, reflected scientific evidence that indicated that HFCs were powerful greenhouse gases.31 It seeks to phase down the use of HFCs globally by 80 to 85 percent by 2047, with different pathways identified for developed and developing countries.32 The main aspects of the Montreal Protocol and the Kigali Amendment are set out in Box 3 below.33

Box 3: The Montreal Protocol and the Kigali Amendment

The Montreal Protocol, the international treaty under which the Kigali Amendment sits, came into force in 1989 and is already one of the most successful treaties ever agreed, having successfully phased out 98% of ozone depleting substances – including chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons. As a result, the ozone layer is showing the first signs of recovery.

The Kigali amendment to the Montreal Protocol, which was agreed by UN countries in December 2016, extends targets to hydro-fluorocarbon greenhouse gases (HFCs). It commits nations to reducing HFCs by 85% between 2019 and 2036. To reach this target, developed countries agreed to an 85% phase-down between 2019 and 2036; most developing countries agreed to 80% between 2024 and 2045; and ten developing countries (India, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, The United Arab Emirates, Iran and Iraq) agreed to 85% between 2028 and 2047. The exact phasing of this is set out below:

12.In July 2017, the European Council confirmed that it had adopted the Amendment on behalf of the EU and announced that it would come into effect on 1 January 2019.34 In September 2017, the UK Government laid a Treaty (Cm 9496) in Parliament to enable UK ratification of the Amendment.35

13.The Montreal Protocol and Kigali Amendment includes agreements by rich countries to help finance the transition of poor countries to alternative safer products. The UK, for instance, contributes £9m a year though its Official Development Assistance budget to the Multilateral Fund for the Implementation of the Montreal Protocol, which helps developing countries finance projects to help their businesses and consumers switch to alternatives to ozone depleting substances and HFCs.36 In some respects, the Kigali Amendment adopts a similar phase-down approach to the EU’s. However, the EU regulation is more ambitious up until 2034, is more prescriptive in terms of mechanisms for achieving its targets (i.e. the Quota System), and covers all HFCs (unlike Kigali, does not deal with issues such as equipment, certification, company registration, standards or training related to F-gases, and which does not cover F-gases such as hydrofluoroolefins).37

The Work of the Committee

14.The main themes that the Committee covered were UK progress in reducing F-gas emissions, the regulation and enforcement of F-gas regulations and the implications of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, particularly for devolution and the UK’s international commitments regarding F-gases. The terms of reference for this report can be found on our website. We held three public hearings with the Chairman of the Committee on Climate Change, academics, NGOs, industry representatives, the Environment Agency and the NHS Sustainable Development Unit and Dr Thérèse Coffey MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. We received 14 pieces of written evidence which are published on our website. We are grateful to all those who gave evidence to this inquiry. We would also like to thank Aaron Goater (Committee on Climate Change), Francoise Spencer (Office of Speaker’s Counsel) and Alistair Dillon (European Scrutiny Committee) for their advice on technical aspects of this inquiry.


1 Committee on Climate Change, Meeting Carbon Budgets: Closing the policy gap, p 166. See also: European Commission, Climate Action: Action on Flourinated Greenhouse Gases, (accessed 8 February 2018).

2 As above. A fourth type of F-gas—nitrogen triflouride (NF3) accounts for very low emissions and results from semi-conductor manufacturing.

3 International action to reduce the use of ozone depleting substances was agreed by the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone layer and the subsequent Montreal Protocol. Specific action designed to target HFCs—the Kigali Amendment, was part of this process. See UNEP Ozone Secretariat, The Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer, (accessed 8 February 2018) and US Environmental Protection Agency, Ozone Layer Protection: International Treaties and Cooperation, (accessed 8 February 2018). For an overview of success in curbing ozone depletion see: World Meteorological Organization et al, Assessment for Decision-Makers: Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion, (2014). An update is due for publication in 2018.

4 See United Nations Environmental Programme, Montreal Protocol, (accessed 8 February 2018) and Climate Home News, Ozone layer treaty could tackle super polluting HFCs, (15 July 2017).

5 For a fuller explanation of GWP see: United States Environmental Protection Agency, Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Understanding Global Warming Potentials, (accessed 20 February 2017).

6 United States Environmental Protection Agency, Overview of Greenhouse Gases, (accessed 26 February 2018)..

7 European Commission Climate Change Action, Climate-friendly Alternatives to HFCs and HCFCs, (accessed 15 February 2018).

8 RFG0006 (Airedale International Air Conditioning Ltd); RFG0003 (Federation of Environmental Trade Associations).

9 RFG0006 (Airedale International Air Conditioning Ltd); RFG0008 (REFCOM).

11 See UNFCCC, The Paris Agreement, (accessed 8 February 2018).

12 Carl-Friedrich Schleussner et al. ‘Differential climate impacts for policy-relevant limits to global warming: the case of 1.5°C and 2°C. Earth Syst. Dynam., 7, 327–351, 2016.

13 Committee on Climate Change, Meeting Carbon Budgets: Closing the policy gap, p 167.

14 See for example: Jeff Tollefson, ‘Nations agree to ban refrigerants that worsen climate change’, Nature, (October 2016); US Department of Energy, The Future of Air Conditioning for Buildings, (July 2016); The Economist, To Coldly Go, (September 2016); UNCCC, Phasing Down HFCs, the Climate’s Low-Hanging Fruit, (October 2016).

15 The Kyoto Protocol lists six GHGs: Carbon dioxide (CO2); Methane (CH4); Nitrous oxide (N2O); Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs); Perfluorocarbons (PFCs); and Sulphur hexafluoride (SF6). See: http://unfccc.int/kyoto_protocol/items/3145.php. For the Committee on Climate Change’s role and the UK’s legislative basis for reducing GHGs, including F-gases, see: https://www.theccc.org.uk/tackling-climate-change/the-legal-landscape/the-climate-change-act/.

16 For an overview of the scientific basis for the climate warming potential of HFCs and PFCs see: Intergovermental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Safeguarding the Ozone Layer and the Global Climate System: Issues Related to Hydrofluorocarbons and Perfluorocarbons, (2005).

17 This included initiatives such as Refrigerants, Naturally!, set up in 2004 by Coca Cola, Unilever and McDonalds which agreed to replacing synthetic refrigerants with natural refrigerants using HFC-free insulation material whilst also reducing the energy consumption of new refrigeration equipment. Since then other companies, such as Red Bull and Pepsi, have joined with support from Green Peace and the UNEP. It estimates that it has installed 5.5 million units using natural refrigerants, the equivalent of 33 million tonnes of avoided CO2. See: http://www.refrigerantsnaturally.com/.

18 For an overview of halocarbons and how they were gradually replaced and reduced across the 1990s see: European Commission, Preparatory study for a review of Regulation (EC) No 842/2006 on certain fluorinated greenhouse gases: Final Report, (September 2011), pp 35–38. See also: UK National Atmospheric Emissions Inventory, About HFCs, (accessed 8 February 2018).

19 Committee on Climate Change, Meeting Carbon Budgets: Closing the policy gap, p 167 and . Atmospheric Emissions Inventory (NAEI), About HFCs, (accessed 17 February 2017).

20 For a copy of the MAC Directive see: http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:32006L0040&from=EN. For a brief summary of the 2006 MAC Directive see: European Commission, The mobile air-conditioning systems MACs, (accessed 8 February 2017). For a more detailed overview see: Gluckman Consulting, EU F-Gas Regulation Guidance - Information Sheet 6: Mobile Air-Conditioning, (accessed 8 February 2018).

21 For a copy of the first 2006 F-gas regulation see: http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:32006R0842&from=EN. For a brief overview of the 2006 F-gas Regulation see: Federation of European Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning Associations, F-Gas Regulation, (accessed 8 February 2018).

22 For a copy of the Regulations and accompanying Explanatory Memorandum see: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2008/41/contents/made. They were updated in 2009 by the Flourinated Greenhouse Gases Regulations 2009, which added further detail as to how the Regulations would be enforced. See: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2009/261/contents/made.

23 For a copy of the 2014 F-gas Regulation see: http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:32014R0517&from=EN. For an overview of how the 2014 F-gas Regulation applies to different sectors see: Gluckman Consulting, EU F-Gas Regulation, (accessed 8 February 2018); Environmental Investigation Agency, EU F-Gas Regulation Handbook: Keeping ahead of the curve as Europe phases down HFCs, (October 2015); European Association of Refrigeration, Air Conditioning and Heat Pump Contractors, A Practical Guide on the Application of the New F-Gas Regulation to Refrigeration, Air Conditioning & Heat Pump Contractors, (October 2014).

24 For information on the Scottish Environment Protection Agency see: https://www.sepa.org.uk/regulations/climate-change/fgases-and-ods/.

25 See: Welsh Government, Fluorinated Greenhouse Gases and Ozone-Depleting Substances, (accessed 17 February 2018).

26 See Northern Ireland Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, Fluorinated Greenhouse Gases and Ozone Depleting Substances, (accessed 17 February 2018).

27 For a copy of the 2015 Regulations and accompanying Explanatory Memorandum see: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2015/310/contents/made. More detailed guidance on how the Regulations are applied in the UK can found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/eu-f-gas-regulation-guidance-for-users-producers-and-traders.

28 For an overview of the Montreal Protocol see: The Conversation, After 30 years of the Montreal Protocol, the ozone layer is gradually healing, (September 2017); David W Fahey, ‘ The Montreal Protocol Protection of Ozone and Climate ‘, Theoretical Inquiries in Law, Vol 14 No 21, (2013); European Commission, The Montreal Protocol, (2007).

29 For details of the various amendments to the Protocol and the decisions taken by the Meetings of the Parties, see: http://ozone.unep.org/en/treaties-and-decisions/montreal-protocol-substances-deplete-ozone-layer.

30 See: Katie Forster, More than 150 countries reach ‘monumental’ deal to phase out powerful greenhouse gases, The Independent, (October 2016); John Vidal, Kigali deal on HFCs is big step in fighting climate change, The Observer, (October 2016); Christopher Booker, Huffing and puffing over HFCs won’t cut global warming, The Telegraph (October 2016).

31 See: Stephen O. Andersen et al., A Global Response to HFCs through Fair and Effective , Ozone and Climate Policies, Chatham House Research Paper, (2014).

32 For a copy of the text of the Kigali Amendment see: https://treaties.un.org/doc/Publication/CN/2016/CN.872.2016-Eng.pdf.

34 See European Council, Protecting Climate: EU gives green light to ratify the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, (17 July 2017). The Council noted that the EU had already adopted instruments (i.e. the F-gas Regulation and MAC Directive) on the matters covered by the Kigali Amendment. The European Parliament had given its formal consent on 5 July.

36 Confirmed by DEFRA in correspondence. Details of the Multilateral Fund for the Implementation of the Montreal Protocol can be found at: http://www.multilateralfund.org/default.aspx.

37 RFG0010 (Dr Ezra Clark); RFG0014 (Dr Annalisa Savaresi).




Published: 25 April 2018