The European Environment Agency (EEA) has published new aggregated information on the production and trade of fluorinated gases – or F-gases – in the EU. Although emitted in relatively small quantities, the emissions of these gases are increasing, and many are several thousand times more powerful greenhouse gases than carbon dioxide (CO2).
In 2011, F-gases were used mostly for refrigeration and air-conditioning purposes, as well as in electrical equipment and in the production of foams and aerosols.
The new report, compiled by the EEA for the first time in cooperation with the European Commission, presents a summary of the latest data reported under the 'F-Gas Regulation' (No 842/2006) by 120 individual companies that have produced, sold, imported or exported F-gases in the European Union (EU).
The F-Gas Regulation is one of the main legal instruments with which the EU aims to reduce F-gas emissions by requiring companies to take a range of measures to reduce leaks from equipment containing F-gases and to recover the gases at the end of the equipment's lifetime. Companies are also required to avoid using F-gases for some applications where environmentally superior alternatives are cost-effective.
F-gases are important because they contributed 2 % of total EU-27 GHG emissions in 2010, measured in terms of CO2-equivalent. Moreover, according to the latest official EU greenhouse gas emissions data, their contribution has been steadily growing since 1990.
"Innovation is a key part of tackling climate change and for certain applications, viable alternatives to F-gases already exist," EEA Executive Director Jacqueline McGlade said. "This makes them an ideal candidate to replace with less harmful alternatives, in order to limit the growth of emissions".
Any company producing, importing or exporting more than one tonne of F-gases is required to report data to the European Commission.
The European Commission is presently investigating further possible options for strengthening EU measures to reduce emissions of fluorinated gases and intends to present a new legal proposal this autumn.
About fluorinated greenhouse gases
Three groups of fluorinated greenhouse gases (the so-called 'F-gases') are covered by EU legislation and the UNFCCC Kyoto Protocol: hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs) and SF6. These F-gases have chemical properties which make them useful in different types of products and applications, mainly as substitutes of ozone-depleting substances such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) and halons which are being phased out under the Montreal Protocol. The gases are used in a range of applications including refrigeration and air conditioning equipment, for manufacturing electronic goods including semiconductors, and in certain aerosols, foams and fire extinguishing systems.
While F-gases do not deplete the ozone layer, they are powerful greenhouse gases typically with long lifetimes in the atmosphere. Their GWP – the measure indicating the effectiveness of a substance to absorb thermal infrared radiation relative to carbon dioxide (and thus their contribution to climate change) – can be thousands of times higher than that of CO2.
18 September, 2012.