New UN report confirms F-gases climate risk

A new report by the UN’s Intergovernmental panel on climate change recommends reducing greenhouse gas emissions coming from fluorinated gases. The EU has already started regulating these F-gases.

The report on the interaction of ozone-protecting chemical substances and climate change was produced by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the Technology and Economic Assessment Panel (TEAP). More than 145 scientists spent two years to complete the report.

The report confirms that climate change and ozone depletion are linked. UNEP’s  executive director Klaus Toepfer therefore said that “there can be no trade-offs between saving the ozone layer and minimising climate change”.

The report presents several options to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of the F-gases:

  • improving the containment of the chemicals to prevent leaks;
  • reducing the amounts of substance needed in the products;
  • promoting more end-of-life recovery and recycling of the substances;
  • increasing the use of alternatives where possible (eg ammonia);
  • using new technologies that avoid having to use these chemicals.

The EU started the process of regulating F-gases in 2003. Its proposals are in line with the report’s recommendation and go even a bit further in the phase-out of the use of some chemicals for air conditioning in cars (see EURACTIV’s LinksDossier on F-gases and climate change)

Chemicals such as HFCs (hydrofluorocarbons) and PFCs (perfluorocarbons) are used in refrigerators, air conditioning, fire protection or solvents. Over the last 20 years they have replaced ozone-depleting substances as CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons) as a result of the 1987 Montreal Protocol to save the Earth's ozone layer. But these alternative substances (commonly known as 'F-gases') contribute seriously to the emissions of greenhouse gases and therefore to climate change.

The Commission's draft regulation of F-gases is now ready for second reading in the European Parliament.

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