The Council of the European Union has officially adopted a new EU F-gas Regulation that aims to completely phase out HFCs across the bloc by 2050.
While the 2014 EU F-gas Regulation already limits the use of HFCs significantly, the new rule will further reduce their emissions in line with the European Green Deal and contribute to limiting global temperature rise as set out in the Paris Agreement, explained the Council in a recent statement.
“Many products we use in everyday life, such as refrigerators and air conditioning, rely on extremely detrimental substances that undermine our environment,” said Alain Maron, Minister of the Government of the Brussels-Capital Region. “The new rules we have put in place impose clear bans and restrictions on such damaging substances, while encouraging the development of sustainable alternatives to protect people’s health.”
The vote, which took place on January 29, closes the adoption procedure for the new regulation after approval was granted by the European Parliament on January 16.
“The new rules we have put in place impose clear bans and restrictions on such damaging substances, while encouraging the development of sustainable alternatives to protect people’s health.”Alain Maron, Government of the Brussels-Capital Region
The regulation now needs to be signed by the Council and Parliament before it is published in the EU’s Official Journal and enters into force 20 days later.
“Credit goes to our Czech, Swedish and Spanish predecessors for the invaluable work they carried out on this crucial legislation, in order to bring the EU closer to reaching its ambitious climate targets,” said Maron.
While f-gas emissions represent a small percentage of the EU’s total greenhouse gas emissions – around 2.5% – they doubled between 1990 and 2014. This is in stark contrast to the bloc’s overall greenhouse gas emissions, which have been reduced by more than 26% over the same period.
The EU’s new HFC phaseout will be based on a gradual reduction in the production and consumption of the f-gases over the coming decades.
It includes bans on several categories of products containing HFCs, including certain chillers and domestic refrigerators, where it is “technologically and economically feasible” to switch to f-gas alternatives.
The regulation also sets specific dates for the complete phaseout of the use of f-gases in different classes of air conditioners and heat pumps. For example, HFCs will be prohibited from use in small monobloc heat pumps and air conditioners with a capacity of less than 12kW (3.4TR) from 2032.
It also includes review deadlines to ensure the necessary progress is being made in terms of technological developments and the availability of alternatives to HFCs.
Strong majority with some opposition
To be adopted, the new f-gas rule required a qualified majority in which 55% of member states, representing at least 65% of the EU population, voted in favor.
Of the 27 member states present at the session, 24 members – representing 82.2% of the EU population – voted in agreement.
Despite playing a fundamental role in brokering the initial proposal, the Czech Republic abstained from the vote, as did Italy, while Hungary voted against the new rule. The positions of the Czech Republic and Hungary were detailed in statements released by each country, while Italy did not issue a statement.
The Czech Republic noted that while it is “fully committed to ensure compliance” with the Montreal Protocol and to helping the EU reach Fit for 55 objectives and climate neutrality, “[t]he final agreement in our opinion goes beyond those objectives and addresses policy choices that have not been fully analyzed and that fall under different legislation, notably the REACH Regulation.”
Hungary’s statement, which was written in Hungarian and translated into English by R744.com using DeepL, said that the country is committed to the EU’s 2030 and 2050 climate targets but that the agreement “crosses serious red lines, which Hungary has repeatedly highlighted earlier.”
“Hungary has consistently insisted throughout the negotiations that energy efficiency, technical safety and economic feasibility should not be ignored, and that the different economic and geographical circumstances of each Member State should be taken into account,” the country wrote.
While some stakeholders have been critical of the EU F-gas Regulations, saying it moves too fast and would hamper Europe’s heat pump targets, many others believe natural refrigerants are the only future-proof option.
Following the European Parliament approval of the rule, Bas Eickhout, Member of the European Parliament for the Greens/European Free Alliance and a leading negotiator on the F-gas Regulation said in a Greens/EFA press release, “Getting rid of these super greenhouse gases will send a clear message to the market that it’s time to switch to greener alternatives.”
“This is essential for the climate and good for European industry, which will remain at the forefront of innovation and cleaner products,” he added.
“Getting rid of these super greenhouse gases will send a clear message to the market that it’s time to switch to greener alternatives.”Bas Eickhout, MEP