In an historic vote, the European Parliament adopted an ambitious position on the revision of the EU F-gas Regulation, supporting an HFC phase out by 2050 and multiple bans on fluorinated greenhouse gases (f-gases, both HFCs and HFOs) in applications such as heat pumps and stationary refrigeration.
In particular, in Annex IV – Placing on the market prohibitions on new system – a number of amendments banning f-gases, which were subject to fierce debate among political groups, were adopted.
In addition, the phase out of HFCs by 2050 takes the phase down of 80% to 85% between 2036 and 2047 in the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol to a more ambitious level.
Among 587 voting, 426 were in favor and 109 against with 52 abstentions.
However, the regulation is far from complete. Now the European Parliament will start negotiations with the European Council, which is expected to adopt its general position on the file next week. Following this, the Trialogue between the European Parliament, the Commission and the Council will begin. An agreement is expected to be reached before this summer.
Still, the considerable ambition of the Parliament’s vote today suggests that the final revision of the Regulation will reflect significant changes in the use of refrigerants in the EU, with a major boost to natural refrigerants.
Moreover, Amendment 139 to article 35 – Review – strictly binds this legislation to the PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) restriction process that was started last month by the European Chemical Agency (ECHA), which is considering petitions from five European countries to regulate a number of f-gases as PFAS (so-called forever chemicals).
“No later than three months following the adoption of the revised REACH Regulation, the Commission shall assess whether this Regulation is coherent with that Regulation. The Commission shall, where appropriate, accompany its assessment with a legislative proposal to amend this Regulation, if it concludes that this Regulation is not coherent with potential new restrictions of the use of PFAS laid down in that Regulation.”
Many f-gas bans
The vote today addressed the text adopted on March 1 by the European Parliament’s Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) Committee, which steered new refrigeration, air-conditioning and heat pump (RACHP) applications away from fluorinated refrigerants, as well as other amendments proposed by political groups aiming essentially at delaying provisions in the ENVI text. The ENVI text was heavily influenced by Bas Eickhout, Member of the Parliament for the Greens/European Free Alliance and a leading negotiator on the F-gas Regulation, who managed to maintain the “decoupling provision” separating f-gases from most RACHP (refrigeration, air-conditioning and heat pump) applications.
The approved amendments 145 and 153 to the Annex IV include the following bans:
- Stationary refrigeration equipment that contains, or whose functioning relies upon, fluorinated greenhouse gases, 1 January 2027.
- Transport refrigeration: In vans and ships that contain, or whose functioning relies upon, fluorinated greenhouse gases, 1 January 2027. In trucks, trailers and reefer containers that contains, or whose functioning relies upon, fluorinated gases, 1 January 2029.
- Plug-in room, monoblock and other self-contained air-conditioning and heat pump equipment that contain fluorinated greenhouse gases, 1 January 2026.
- Single split systems, including fixed double duct systems, containing less than 3kg (6.6lbs) of fluorinated greenhouse gases listed in Annex I, that contain, or whose functioning relies upon, fluorinated greenhouse gases, 1 January 2028.
- Split systems of a rated capacity of up to and including 12kW (3.4TR) containing, or whose functioning relies upon, fluorinated greenhouse gases except when required to meet safety standards, 1 January 2028.
- Split systems of a rated capacity of more than 12kW and up to 200kW (56.9TR) containing, or whose functioning relies upon, fluorinated greenhouse gases with GWP of 750 or more, except when required to meet safety standards, 1 January 2028.
- Split systems of a rated capacity of more than 200 kW containing, or whose functioning relies upon, fluorinated greenhouse gases, 1 January 2028.
Other bans in the ENVI proposal that were not subject to discussion among political groups but will be included in the Parliament position are:
- 23a: Mobile air conditioning in passenger and cargo ships, buses, trams, and trains that contain, or whose functioning relies upon, fluorinated greenhouse gases, 1 January 2029.
- 23b: Mini, displacement and centrifugal chillers that contain, or whose functioning relies upon, fluorinated greenhouse gases, 1 January 2027.
In Annex VII – HFC Phase down – the European Parliament also confirms its stance to advocate for a complete phase out of HFCs by 2050.
Other measures adopted
The adopted Amendment 67 to Article 10 in Parliament’s position – Certification and training – provides for the structuring of a certification for natural alternatives, i.e., natural refrigerants, which would cover their characteristics and benefits compared to the use of fluorinated greenhouse gases, and their safe handling during installation, servicing, maintenance, repair and decommissioning. This measure is aimed at mainstreaming the adoption of natural alternatives across HVAC&R technologies in Europe.
Amendment 102 to Article 17 – Determination of reference values and allocation of quotas for placing hydrofluorocarbons on the market – provides for the channelling of revenues from sold HFC quotas to support the acceleration of the deployment of alternatives to fluorinated gases. This is deemed strategic by the Parliament, particularly in sectors incurring high mitigation costs and in the heat pump sector.
Amendment 137 to Article 35 – Review – trusts the Commission to “continuously monitor technological and market developments in relation to the use of fluorinated greenhouse gases and their natural alternatives in the Union.” Moreover, “the Commission is empowered to strengthen the prohibitions on the placing on the market of high GWP fluorinated greenhouse gases in the products or equipment concerned, where it finds evidence of the emergence or acceleration of the use of low GWP fluorinated greenhouse gases or of natural alternatives in products and equipment placed on the Union market.”
Finally, the Commission should advocate at the Montreal Protocol level to update the GWP values of fluorinated substances according to the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report. In addition, where available, the 20-year GWP should be provided to better inform about the climate impacts of the substances covered by this Regulation, according to Amendment 5 to Recital 7.
On bans of SF6 gas in switchgear, all provisions adopted in the ENVI were confirmed.
Other provisions from the Commission text, such as the addition of the GWP 20-year values, were not under discussion among political groups.