New ECOS briefing: natural refrigerants needed for cutting emissions from fridges and air conditioners
Fluorinated refrigerants (F-gases) are artificial gases that are mainly used in the refrigeration, heat pump and air conditioning sectors. Most of them have a significant global warming effect once they are emitted into the atmosphere, thousands of times worse and with a longer life than carbon dioxide. Our new briefing shows that there are more climate impacts associated with F-gases than the ones usually considered.
Attempts have been made to reduce the negative environmental impacts of refrigerants by replacing old generations of F-gases with new ones. But replacing one synthetic refrigerant with another has not proved to be a sustainable solution. Even if new refrigerants have a lower GWP, there exist a number of other climate impacts coming from their production and their degradation in the atmosphere. These impacts, however, are mostly ignored by policymakers. Information about the full impact of refrigerants is scarce, and the way it is presented is sometimes misleading.
Our new briefing shows that there are more climate impacts associated with F-gases than the ones usually considered. Commonly used fluorinated refrigerants contribute to global warming also through the emissions associated with their manufacturing, as well as their degradation. Even the newer fluorinated refrigerants that have a lower global warming potential bring about very worrying emissions. When they undergo degradation, some of these refrigerants split into harmful substances that are currently banned by EU legislation and that modern refrigerants are supposed to replace.
The European Commission is currently analysing different policy options for the revision of the EU F-Gas Regulation. We call on them to take the overlooked impacts of F-gases into account and promote a change towards natural and non-fluorinated alternatives, such as hydrocarbons. They not only have a low-GWP, but also a very low manufacturing carbon footprint.