According to Tim Grabiel, Senior Lawyer and Policy Advisor at the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), there is a “very real need” to accelerate the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol if we are meet international climate goals.
“We have a climate imperative right now; there are a lot of dangerous tipping points, [and] we’re in a race to protect the planet as it exists,” said Grabiel. “We have the Paris Agreement, we have the European Climate Law, [and] we have the Kigali Amendment, but this will require an adjustment be more ambitious if we’re to stay within 1.5°C [2.7°F].”
Grabiel delivered these remarks during his presentation for the EU f-gas policy panel at the ATMOsphere (ATMO) Europe Summit on natural refrigerants. The conference took place November 15–16 in Brussels and was organized by ATMOsphere, publisher of R744.com.
Grabiel highlighted that the ambition of the EU F-gas Regulation – which puts Europe’s phasedown of HFCs ahead of the international schedule – sets the stage for the Kigali Amendment to be adjusted.
At the moment, the Kigali Amendment specifies a 10% reduction in HFC consumption for Non-Article 5 parties, whereas EU regulation requires a 55% reduction, and from 2024, the Kigali Amendment specifies a 40% reduction, compared to the EU’s 69% reduction.
“The international schedule doesn’t start to catch up with the European schedule until 2030 and beyond,” he added.
Grabiel also noted that the current EU F-gas Regulation proposal will “accelerate European action further,” requiring a 77% reduction in HFC consumption in Europe from 2024.
“This is very normal for the EU; we have a history of being ahead of the rest of the world,” he explained. “We phased out HCFCs 10 years ahead of the international schedule, we adopted the HFC phasedown several years before the Kigali Amendment, and we’re now going to unilaterally accelerate our phasedown schedule if the proposal holds ahead of the international schedule.”
It is because of this leadership that European companies have developed the technologies necessary to support the HFC transition, he added, stressing the importance of staying ahead of the curve.
“If we unilaterally accelerate our HFC phasedown, we can walk it to the Montreal Protocol and show that more is possible,” he said. “We’re willing to daylight these technologies here so that they can be adopted around the world. This is a very important signal to the international community.”
According to Grabiel, it is vital that we protect and even strengthen the ambition of the European Commission’s f-gas proposal.
Heat pump deployment
During his presentation, Grabiel noted that there has been some criticism from the fluorochemical industry around the level of ambition of the proposed EU F-gas Regulation, with some saying the phasedown schedule is too fast, particularly in light of plans to deploy 20 million new heat pumps by 2026 under REPowerEU.
However, he pointed out that REPowerEU plans will require only a small proportion of HFC quotas under the current proposal.
“The maximum quantity of HFC quotas in 2024 under the Commission’s proposal will be 41.7 million tons of CO2e,” Grabiel explained. “REPowerEU ambition will require 3.1 million tons of CO2e in 2024, 2.7 million tons in 2025 and 1.5 million tons in 2026. That’s 7.4%, 6.4% and 3.5%, respectively.”
The EU F-gas Regulation proposal also includes safeguard provisions to ensure compatibility with other policy, such as REPowerEU.
“There is no anticipated conflict with [the] current EU F-gas Regulation or proposed revisions; in short, REPowerEU is feasible,” he said.
Importance of bans
“Bans are absolutely critical because they send indications to the industry on where to go and what to do,” said Grabiel. “We went from nearly no R32 on the market to over 90% in four years. This proves that these markets can transition quickly; we just need a clear market signal.”
He added that bans on HFCs will help to guide markets towards “climate-friendly alternatives,” provide investment certainty and “ensure the benefits of heat pumps aren’t reduced.”
From 2025, the proposed regulation will prohibit the sale of self-contained air-conditioning equipment that contain f-gases with a GWP of 150 or more. In response to this, Grabiel noted that many manufacturers are already transitioning their monoblock units to hydrocarbons.
From 2027, the same limit will be applied to smaller split units, such as heat pumps.
“That’s a very important, high-growth sector,” he explained. “That’s the sector we need to get if we’re going to meet our climate ambitions, not only here in Europe, but we need to do that globally.”
In his presentation, Grabiel also briefly discussed the dangers of by-product and fugitive emissions, as well as break-down products like TFA (trifluoroacetic acid) in our battle against climate change.
According to a recent report from the EIA, there are 700 million tons of CO2e of unexpected or unknown f-gas emissions every year.
“The quicker we can get away from HFCs and fluorinated gases, the better,” he concluded.