The European Parliament’s environment committee on Wednesday (1 March) voted to phase-out climate wrecking F-gases used in cooling systems and power transmission stations.
Fluorinated gases have a warming effect of up to 25,000 times stronger than that of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas emitted by cars and industries. Although the amounts that end up in the troposphere are small, it amounts to 2.3 percent of total EU emissions.
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“Replacing F-gases is low-hanging fruit,” said Green MEP and rapporteur of the file, Bas Eickhout, who also led the previous iteration of F-gas legislation in 2013. “Almost no one knows what F-gases are, but you might say they are a red line in my career.”
Although there are many different F-gases produced by chemical companies, one widely-used gas, sulphur hexafluoride (SF6), is particularly destructive and has been described by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as the ” most climate-damaging greenhouse gas in the world.”
It is used as superconductor in sub-transmission stations (so-called ‘nodes’) in many power grids. One kilogram of SF6 is more harmful to the climate than 25 people flying from London to New York.
MEPs have now overwhelmingly agreed that all F-gases should be phased out to 11 percent of the amount used in 2015 and then further reduced to zero by 2050. The updated legislation was voted through with 64 votes in favour and only eight votes against, setting it up for an expected easy adoption in the plenary vote 29-30 March.
While the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) has applauded the “urgently needed” F-gas bans, some have pointed out that strict curbs on F-gases could slow the energy transition as it is also used in electric heat pumps.
Following the 2013 legislation, European manufacturers have already adapted and found less damaging or climate-neutral alternatives that can act as superconductors. But many foreign producers have not yet adapted to EU rules, and in a statement, European Heat Pump Association (EHPA) head of EU affairs, Jozefien Vanbecelaere, warned strict rules risk “significantly limiting the number of heat pumps available in certain market segments pushing consumers back to fossil fuels.”
But many industry insiders there is enough time for manufacturers to adapt. “We need to get F-gases out of our power grids as quickly as possible. We’re past the point where compromise solutions are acceptable when it comes to global warming — especially when climate-neutral alternatives are already available,” said Tim Holt, member of the managing board of Siemens Energy.
To address the risk a section was added to the draft text requiring the EU Commission to sit down with heat pump industry representatives in 2025 to assess the impact of the legislation on the market.