EU Adopts Rules to Limit Fluorinated Gasses, Ozone-Depleting Substances

AC systems on building wall

(Credit: Unsplash)

by | Jan 30, 2024

The European Union has strengthened its rules on fluorinated gasses and ozone-depleting substances, aiming to eliminate about 500 million tons of carbon emissions by 2050.

The EU’s rules will end the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), the most common fluorinated gasses, or F-gas, used for cooling and refrigeration, and will restrict the use of F-gasses where a climate-friendly alternative is available. Further, equipment using refrigerants with high global warming potential will not be permitted to be exported from the EU.

Rules May Drive Climate-Friendly, Alternative Technologies

F-gasses and ozone-depleting substances (ODS) represent more than 3% of the EU’s current emissions.

The substances are known as potent greenhouse gasses as they trap substantially more heat than carbon emissions — ODS are known to have a global warming potential thousands of times greater than carbon dioxide. Both gasses have been used for several applications beyond cooling as well, such as fire protection products, power lines, and aerosols.

With the new rules, the EU intends to drive investment in alternative technologies that do not rely on F-gasses or ODS, such as heat pumps or switchgear power systems. Also hoping to stimulate innovation in clean technologies, the rule is meant to reduce the price of climate-friendly alternatives as an increasing number of such products come to market.

“These new rules are the most ambitious in the world,” said Wopke Hoestra, EU commissioner for climate action. “These rules will stimulate innovation and create new opportunities for EU industry, and citizens will benefit from the deployment of state-of-the-art technologies. The EU is also continuing its role as a leader in the implementation of the Montreal Protocol, and setting a positive example for partners around the world.”

Ozone Recovery on Track Due to Commitment to Regulate ODS

The new EU regulation follows a similar decision from the Environmental Protection Agency, which announced a rule last year aiming to reduce HFCs by 40% from 2024 through 2028. The EPA also plans to achieve further reductions of 85% by 2036, which should reportedly help avoid up to 0.5 degrees Celsius of global warming.

The Montreal Protocol was signed in 1987 by United Nations countries as a commitment to regulate the consumption and production of almost 100 man-made ODS substances after scientists discovered a hole in the ozone layer in 1985. In January of 2023, the UN released a report explaining that as long as current policies remain in place, the ozone layer should recover to 1980 values by 2045.

In the years following the signing of the Montreal Protocol, a number of technologies have allowed for the phase-out of ODS, especially in the cooling sector. The UN points to the success of the Montreal Protocol as a precedent for climate action, emphasizing policy as a main driver in meeting climate goals.

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