Today, the Council presidency and the European Parliament negotiators are heading toward the final political trilogue on the proposed phase-out of F-gas refrigerants for some applications. The ban will significantly limit the number of heat pumps available in certain market segments, pushing consumers back to fossil fuels with severe consequences for health and the planet.
The proposed regulation seeks to eliminate the use of certain gases with global warming potential (GWP) above a certain threshold (>10). While the environmental purpose is clear, trade-offs need to be considered to ensure an effective balance also in view of the 2040 climate targets currently under discussion in Brussels.
The biggest cuts are foreseen, in some cases, as early as 2027. This does not only clash with the EU’s climate ambitions, but also with the flagship REPowerEU plan which calls for the deployment of 60 million new heat pumps by 2030. Considered of critical importance for climate-neutral heating, heat pumps are also one of the net-zero technologies that will be instrumental to ramp up European production capacities for renewable energy technologies, according to the Net-Zero Industry Act presented by the European Commission earlier this year.
With heat pumps at the centre of the European Commission’s REPowerEU plan to ditch fossil fuels, many European companies are already at the forefront of this development. The proposed bans translate into a sudden shift to natural refrigerants, for almost 30 thousand different models of equipment already present on the European market. Which involves “the adaptation of production processes, but also the training of installers, as well as considerations on the safety and overall energy efficiency of these solutions, with an impact on the affordability of products,” said APPLiA Environment Policy Manager Naomi Marc. A move that is in “clear contradiction with the RePowerEU heat pump deployment targets.”
Today, the industry is already using alternative refrigerants for some applications, as part of its broader efforts and overarching commitment to offering solutions that can mitigate climate change and reduce carbon emissions. However, a full-fledged ban on F-gas would not be technically feasible for all applications as “it would leave the market with no possibility to meet all consumers’ demand for air conditioners,” explained Marc. A diversity of fluorinated and non-fluorinated solutions is needed to fit the wide variety of applications for both the EU and export markets. The sector is already investing in cleaner technologies using lower Global Warming Potential (GWP) refrigerants and designing highly energy-efficient products that are good for the environment and for the wallet. Developing new products using new solutions requires finding real alternatives, and striking a fair and secure balance for all.
Introduced in January 2015, the F-Gas Regulation intended to reduce EU’s F-gas emissions by two-thirds by 2030, compared to 2014 levels. In April 2022, the European Commission presented a proposal to update the original Regulation, announcing the key goal for Europe to introduce a further phase-down as from 2024 and a full-fledged ban on F-gas, as of 2027. The Council and Parliament are set to reach an agreement later today before the final endorsement of the legislation.