The German environment authority seeks stronger EU regulation of f-gases to protect the climate.
The German Environment Agency headquarters in Dessau-Rosslau. Credit: German Environment Agency
The German Environment Agency (Umweltbundesamt – UBA) is calling on the European Union (EU) to accelerate its f-gas phase-down, and set a target of 90% reduction by 2030. This move can save an additional 100 million tonnes of CO2e emissions compared to the existing phase-down plan aiming for a 79% reduction, UBA said.
Based in Dessau-Rosslau, the UBA is Germany’s main environmental protection agency. The Agency works with climate protection, waste avoidance and pesticide approvals. It gathers data about the state of the environment and shares it with the German Ministry of the Environment, offering policy advise.
Professor Dirk Messner, President of the UBA, said that the upcoming revision of the EU's F-Gas Regulation offers an opportunity. “If our proposal is implemented, it will also support the efforts of the international community to further reduce HFC emissions. Ambitious regulation in the EU will also open up numerous export opportunities to us in this area.”
HFCs are used as refrigerants in refrigeration systems and may escape to the environment during filling, operation and disposal. HFCs have high GWPs – up to 14,800 more than CO2 in the case of R23. UBA estimates that a rapid replacement of HFCs with natural refrigerants such as ammonia, water or hydrocarbons could save more than 100 million tonnes CO2 equivalent in the European Union (EU) by 2030. These refrigerants have a low or no GWP. “Equipment and systems using natural refrigerants have proven to be effective in practice and are notable for their comparable or even better energy efficiency than those which use HFCs,” Messner said.
HFCs and other f-gases are already regulated by the EU F-gas Regulation. It bans certain applications and outlines a pathway to phasing down HFCs for other applications. By 2030, the current regulation provides for a reduction of the annual amount of HFCs placed on the European market to 21% of the baseline, with the latter equaling the average supply in 2009 to 2012. In 2014, the EU established a phase-down schedule and pioneered global measures in the sector. “Regarding the growing urgency for climate action, UBA now proposes to enhance ambitions by further reducing the phase-down target to 10% of the baseline by 2030, in addition to further bans. From 2030, this measure would reduce HFC use by a further 20 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year,” Messner explained.
Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol
The Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer has since 2019 ensured that HFCs are subject to a phase-down in industrialized countries worldwide. Developing countries will follow in two groups, freezing their HFC use in 2024 and 2028 respectively. Since the transition from substances that deplete the ozone layer to HFCs has not yet, or only partially, been completed in many countries, the switch to natural refrigerants could be made directly - a strategy known as leapfrogging. “Some good examples of this already exist, such as that of an air conditioner manufacturer in India [Godrej & Boyce]. It uses the natural refrigerant propane instead of an HFC in its single-split AC units. The units are among the most energy-efficient on the Indian market,” UBA said.
Full compliance with the Kigali Agreement will result in a global reduction of HFC emissions of more than 60 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent by 2050. By the end of the century, the agreement will prevent a global temperature increase of 0.4 degrees Celsius.
“Equipment and systems using natural refrigerants have proven to be effective in practice.” – UBA