Trilogue European Institutions EU F-gas
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Let the Trilogue Begin: European Institutions Begin Negotiating Final Shape of Next EU F-gas Regulation

Having published their own versions, the European Parliament, Council and Commission will now hammer out a compromise.

With the adoption on April 5 of the Council of the EU’s position on the revision of the EU F-gas Regulation, following the European Parliament’s ambitious vote on the regulation on March 30, the next and final step in the process of updating the regulation will take place.

In this phase, the Council, the Parliament and the European Commission will engage in rounds of negotiations – called a trilogue – to finalize the revised EU F-gas Regulation, with the objective to secure a deal by summer.

The revision process started in summer 2020. In April 2022, the Commission released its f-gas proposal. The parties are now aiming at making the new EU F-gas Regulation enter into force as of January 2024.

Common points include mainstreaming NatRefs

Across the positions adopted by the three bodies is the mainstreaming of natural refrigerants in Europe.

In fact, the European Commission’s proposal under Article 10 (Certification and training) supports the establishment of certification programs “for other relevant alternatives to fluorinated greenhouse gases.” This point was shared by the Council, which supports certification and training for “relevant alternatives to fluorinated greenhouse gases including natural refrigerants.”

The European Parliament position goes even further, asking in Amendment 67 for the “certification for natural alternatives, including their characteristics and benefits compared to the use of fluorinated greenhouse gases, and their safe handling during installation, servicing, maintenance, repair and decommissioning.” The Council supports this mainstreaming provision.

The current regulation identifies HFCs as the only fluorinated greenhouse gases. However, here too there is common agreement in the proposed revisions to define both HFCs and HFOs as fluorinated greenhouse gases, irrespective of the low GWP of HFOs.

Still to negotiate: HFC phase down and system bans

Policy makers will still need to iron out differences relating to the HFC phase down and bans of refrigeration systems.

The Commission and Council propose to phase down HFCs, not ultimately eliminate them as the Parliament proposes. The Commission and Council want to aggressively reduce the HFC quotas available, starting at about 40 MtCO2e for the first allocation period of 2024-–2026, but still rely on 4.2 MtCO2e from 2048 onwards.

But the Parliament considers this inconsistent with the objective of climate neutrality by 2050 and is calling for a phase out of HFCs as of 2050, due to the possibility today of switching to refrigerants that don’t consume HFCs quotas.

On stationary refrigeration, the European Commission proposed the following bans:

  • As of January 1, 2024, for new self-contained commercial refrigerators and freezers that contain fluorinated gases with GWP of 150 or more (11)
  •  As of January 1, 2025, any new self-contained refrigeration equipment that contains fluorinated gases with GWP of 150 or more (12)
  • As of January 1, 2024, new stationary refrigeration equipment that contains, or whose functioning relies upon, fluorinated gases with GWP of 2,500 or more, except equipment to cool products to temperatures below -50°C/-58°F (14)
  • As of January 1, 2022, new multipack centralized refrigeration systems for commercial use with a rated capacity of 40kW (11.4TR) or more that contain, or whose functioning relies upon, fluorinated gases listed in Annex I with GWP of 150 or more, except in the primary refrigerant circuit of cascade systems where fluorinated gases with a GWP of less than 1,500 may be used (15).

The Council largely repeats the Commission’s proposal in bans 11, 12, 14 and 15.

The Parliament instead has conveyed clearly its position that new systems in stationary refrigeration can be served without fluorinated gases, asking for a complete decoupling of f-gases in bans 11 and 12 and adding a ban (14a) on new stationary refrigeration equipment that contains, or whose functioning relies upon, fluorinated greenhouse gases as of January 1, 2027. The Parliament also supports a ban (23b) on new mini, displacement and centrifugal chillers that contain, or whose functioning relies upon, fluorinated gases as of January 1, 2027.

The Parliament is also of the view that new mobile systems need to transition away from f-gases as these systems were largely untouched in the previous version of the legislation. The Parliament suggests that transport refrigeration can move to natural refrigerants by the end of this decade, prohibiting the use of f-gases in new transport refrigeration systems in vans and ships as of January 1, 2027, and in trucks, trailers and reefer containers as of January 1, 2029. In addition, the Parliament welcomed the addition of a ban (23a) on all f-gases used in new mobile air-conditioning in passenger and cargo ships, buses, trams and trains as of January 1, 2029.

Heat pumps front and center

Heat pumps have long been front and center in the political debate surrounding the revision of the F-gas Regulation.

The Commission proposed a ban (17) entering into force on January 1, 2025, on plug-in room and other self-contained air-conditioning and heat pump equipment that contain fluorinated greenhouse gases with GWP of 150 or more.

The Council adopts a more detailed approach, banning

  • New plug-in room air-conditioning equipment (self-contained equipment) that is movable between rooms by the end user and contain HFCs with a GWP of 150 or more, by January 1, 2020 (a).
  • New plug-in room and other self-contained air-conditioning and heat pumps (including all heat pumps in monobloc construction) with a maximum rated capacity of 50kW (14.2TR) that contain fluorinated gases with a GWP of 150 or more, except when required to meet safety requirements, as of January 1, 2027. When safety requirements would not allow using gases with a GWP of 150 or less, the GWP limit is 750 (b)
  • Other new self-contained air-conditioning and heat pumps that contain fluorinated gases with a GWP of 150 or more except when required to meet safety requirements, as of January 1, 2030. The same safety clause would raise the GWP limit to 750 (c).

By contrast, the Parliament would welcome a complete phase out of fluorinated greenhouse gases in ban 17 as of January 1, 2026, due to the maturity of alternatives in this technology.

On split systems, the three institutions have also aligned in the adoption of bans, with differences in the GWP levels and the deadlines.

The European Commission proposal would institute a ban (18) for the following stationary split air-conditioning and split heat pump equipment:

  • New single-split systems containing less than 3kg (6.6lbs) of fluorinated gases listed in Annex I that contain, or whose functioning relies upon, fluorinated greenhouse gases listed in Annex I with GWP of 750 or more, as of January 1, 2025 (a).
  • New split systems of a rated capacity of up to and including 12kW (3.4TR) containing, or whose functioning relies upon, fluorinated gases with a GWP of 150 or more, except when required to meet safety standards, as of January 1, 2027 (b).
  •  New split systems of a rated capacity of more than 12kW containing, or whose functioning relies upon, fluorinated gases with GWP of 750 or more, except when required to meet safety standards, as of January 1, 2027 (c).

The Council is largely aligned with the Commission on ban 18, supporting entirely provision (a) and largely provision (c), but postponing the date for provision (b) to January 1, 2029. The Council also has the following bans:

  • New split air-to-water systems of a rated capacity of up to and including 12kW containing, or whose functioning relies upon, fluorinated gases listed in Annex I with a GWP of 150 or more, except when required to meet safety requirements, as of January 1, 2027 (ba).
  • New split systems of a rated capacity of more than 12kW containing, or whose functioning relies upon, fluorinated gases listed in Annex I with GWP of 150 or more, except when required to meet safety requirements, as of January 1, 2033 (d).

By contrast, the Parliament, aware of the issues related to low GWP f-gases that are or that degrade into PFAS, is seeking to decouple this sector from all fluorinated gases where technology allows it today. For this, it suggests that the placing on the market of new equipment as of January 1, 2028, comply with the following bans:

  • F-gases in single split systems, including fixed double duct systems, containing less than 3kg of fluorinated greenhouse gases listed in Annex I (a).
  • F-gases in split systems of a rated capacity of up to and including 12kW, except when required to meet safety standards (b).
  • F-gases with a GWP above 750 in split systems of a rated capacity of more than 12kW and up to 200kW (c).
  • F-gases in split systems of a rated capacity of more than 200kW/56.9TR (ca).

Next F-gas Regulation already in the makin

There seems to be general consensus among the three institutions that this will not be the last revision of the EU F-gas Regulation.

The Commission’s proposal allows that executive body to amend the values of the GWP of fluorinated gases according to releases of the assessment reports of the IPCC. It also acknowledges the need to release a report on the implementation of the regulation by January 2033. The Council, on the other hand, asks for a report by 2030 and the Parliament by 2027.

In addition, the Parliament proposes that the Commission “continuously monitor technological and market developments in relation to the use of fluorinated greenhouse gases and their natural alternatives in the Union,” granting it the power to strengthen the bans “where it finds evidence of the emergence or acceleration of the use of low GWP fluorinated greenhouse gases or of natural alternatives.”

Finally, the Parliament also relates the revision of the EU F-gas Regulation to the REACH Restriction of PFAS, asking that the Commission assess the need to revise the EU F-gas “no later than three months following the adoption of the revised REACH Regulation,” to check alignment with “potential new restrictions of the use of PFAS.”

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