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EU legislation to control F-gases

To control emissions from fluorinated greenhouse gases (F-gases), including hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), the European Union has adopted two legislative acts: the ’MAC Directive’ on air conditioning systems used in small motor vehicles, and the ‘F-gas Regulation’ which covers all other key applications in which F-gases are used.

 

The MAC Directive prohibits the use of F-gases with a global warming potential of more than 150 times greater than carbon dioxide (CO2) in new types of cars and vans introduced from 2011, and in all new cars and vans produced from 2017.

The F-gas Regulation follows two tracks of action:

  • Improving the prevention of leaks from equipment containing F-gases. Measures comprise:
    • containment of gases and proper recovery of equipment;
    • training and certification of personnel and of companies handling these gases, and
    • labeling of equipment containing F-gases.
  • Avoiding the use of F-gases where environmentally superior alternatives are cost-effective. From 2015 the volume of HFCs which can be placed on the EU market will be subject to quantitative limits which will be phased down over time. In addition, measures include restrictions on the marketing and use of certain products and equipment containing F-gases.

New F-gas Regulation from 2015

The original F-gas Regulation, adopted in 2006, is being replaced by a new Regulation adopted in 2014 which applies from 1 January 2015. This strengthens the existing measures and introduces a number of far-reaching changes by:

  • Limiting the total amount of the most important F-gases that can be sold in the EU from 2015 onwards and phasing them down in steps to one-fifth of 2014 sales in 2030. This will be the main driver of the move towards more climate-friendly technologies;
  • Banning the use of F-gases in many new types of equipment where less harmful alternatives are widely available, such as fridges in homes or supermarkets, air conditioning and foams and aerosols;
  • Preventing emissions of F-gases from existing equipment by requiring checks, proper servicing and recovery of the gases at the end of the equipment's life.

These measures will build on and benefit from the successful phase-out of ozone-depleting substances which was achieved in the EU 10 years ahead of the internationally agreed schedule.

Thanks to the new F-gas Regulation, the EU’s F-gas emissions will be cut by two-thirds by 2030 compared with 2014 levels. Though ambitious, this reduction is achievable at relatively low cost because climate friendly alternatives are readily available for many of the products and equipment in which F-gases are commonly used today.

While the new Regulation repeals the original Regulation from 2006, the 10 implementing Regulations adopted under the original Regulation remain in force and continue to apply until new acts are adopted.

Promoting consensus on a global HFC phase-down

The new Regulation anticipates a global phase-down of the consumption and production of HFCs on the basis of proposals currently being discussed under the Montreal Protocol on protecting the ozone layer.

The Regulation will also affect other markets, in particular countries exporting to the EU. Through increased demand for climate-friendly technologies, the new Regulation creates new business opportunities and will accelerate innovation and economies of scale in producing such technologies, thus lowering their costs. In this way, the Regulation helps to promote consensus on a broader international agreement.

While confirming the EU's position as a global leader in taking strong measures on F-gases, the new legislation is also meant to inspire others to take action. A number of countries are already developing similar approaches.

In addition, tackling HFC emissions is a priority of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants (CCAC), of which the Commission is a member. Similarly, the G20 countries have recognised the need to act on HFCs.