The EU is on track for meeting its HFC phase-down obligation

Latest official figures show that in 2018, EU-wide placing on the market of HFCs was 1% below the 2018 maximum limit set by the quota system, despite a 41% reduction of this limit compared with 2017.

In its 2019 edition (1) of the report on fluorinated greenhouse gases (F-gases) published in February 2020, the European Environment Agency (EEA) notes “the good progress achieved in 2018 by the European Union (EU) in phasing-down the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs)”.

The report presents the data reported in 2019 by 2089 companies about their activities involving fluorinated gases (F-gases) in 2018 and assesses both the progress made under the ongoing EU-wide HFC phase-down under the F-gas Regulation and the outlook towards the global HFC phase-down, which began in 2019 under the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol.

The HFC phase-down under the EU F-gas Regulation is being implemented through annual quantitative limits (quotas) on the placing on the EU market of HFCs by producers and importers. In 2018, the total quantity of HFCs placed on the market was 1 Mt CO2e or 1.0% below the limit, despite a 41% reduction in the authorized HFC quantity compared with 2017.

2018 was the second year when imports of refrigeration, air conditioning and heat pump (RACHP) equipment containing HFCs became subject to the quota system. The reserve of quota authorisations, built up by a number of equipment importers during 2015 and 2016, increased by 14% during 2018, following a 14% decrease in 2017.

The global HFC phase-down under the Kigali Amendment introduces limits to the consumption of HFCs, starting in 2019. In 2018, HFC consumption in the EU dropped by 38% and was already 46% below the first limit for the EU under the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, which was to be achieved in 2019.

Other key findings of the EEA report are the following:

The volume of total supply of F-gases in physical tonnes in 2018 – calculated from reported production, imports and exports – was 14% lower than in the previous year, with a GWP that was 30% lower than in 2017. Refrigeration and air conditioning continue to be key applications representing 71% of the 2018 supply in tonnes and 65% in CO2e. However, the supplied quantity of refrigerants fell by nearly 30% compared with 2017, and its total GWP measured in CO2e decreased by 34%.

Reclamation of used F-gases increased by 9% compared with 2017, mostly due to the reclamation of HFCs (95% of reclaimed gases). Reclaimed HFCs now make up 9% of the produced amount or 3% of the EU supply of virgin HFCs.

Imports of F-gases into the EU, including both bulk imports and imports contained in products and equipment, decreased by 7% compared with 2017. Imports of HFCs fell by 13%, while imports of unsaturated HFCs/HCFCs increased by 32%. Overall, 99% of all bulk HFC imports originate from three countries: China (71%), the United States (20%) and Japan (8%).

These EEA figures regarding EU 2018 bulk imports of HFCs (111.8 Mt CO2e) are disputed by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) which estimates this figure at 119 Mt CO2e. The EIA argues that the EEA report ignores the “significant” illegal trade in HFCs which took place in Europe in 2018. (2)