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Preventing runaway climate change by mitigating emissions of super greenhouse gases – hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs)

Through a global phase-down of HFCs we have the opportunity and the obligation to mitigate 100 billion CO2 equivalent metric tons by 2050.

EIA's Climate Campaign focuses on international and domestic policies to phase-down hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) - potent greenhouse gases (GHGs) used primarily in refrigeration, air conditioning, and foam applications. As part of our work, we have undertaken groundbreaking investigations into the illegal trade in ozone depleting substances (ODS) and have been closely involved in international ozone and climate negotiations for more than a decade.

HFCs were developed as replacement chemicals for ODS (CFCs - chlorofluorocarbons and HCFCs - hydrochlorofluorocarbons), which have been or are currently being phased-out under the Montreal Protocol. Unfortunately, HFCs have huge global warming potentials (GWPs) and are several thousands of times more damaging to the climate than CO2. If left unchecked, HFC emissions will continue to increase exponentially and could constitute up to 29% of all greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, potentially negating a significant amount of climate change mitigation actions pledged by countries to date under the 2015 Paris Agreement of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Phasing down HFCs under the Montreal Protocol is the most cost-effective, short-term and fast-action strategy for reducing GHG emissions. A global phase-down could avoid 1.1–1.7 billion metric tons CO2 equivalent (CO2 equivalent is a measure used to compare impacts of greenhouse gases based on their global warming potential in relation to CO2) of GHG emissions per year by 2030, with cumulative emission reductions of nearly 100 billion metric tons CO2 equivalent by 2050.

Fortunately, HFC-free technologies are available to enable a phase-down of HFCs and replace these dangerous, climate-damaging chemicals. Rapid large-scale transitions to HFC-free alternatives is not only possible but also critical to protect the climate.

EIA's Total Impact on Protecting the Climate

EIA's Forest Campaign is also crucial to protecting the world's climate. Deforestation and forest degradation releases carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere and dramatically reduces the capacity of ecosystems to adapt to climate change. Healthy natural forests store vast amounts of carbon and are the most resilient to climate change and other disturbances. An independent report estimates that the push to stop illegal logging globally, which has been led by EIA, already saved 17 million hectares (42 million acres) from deforestation and forest degradation between 2002 and 2010, totaling between an estimated 1.2 and 14.6 billion metric tons of avoided carbon emissions.

Between phasing out HFCs via a global agreement under the Montreal Protocol and defending the governance of the global forests from illegal logging, these two EIA campaigns will combine to cut about half of all projected GHG emissions in 2050.

A global phase-down of HFCs at the Montreal Protocol is the largest, fastest and most cost-effective climate change mitigation option currently available.
Objectives:
  • Achieve an ambitious global phase-down of HFCs
  • Expose and prevent illegal trade in synthetic chemicals
  • Increase collaboration between policymakers, civil society, and the private sector
Large HFC consuming countries must lead the way in enacting regulations to phase down HFCs and commercialize alternatives
Objectives:
  • Enact ambitious national regulations in major consuming countries
  • Enhance near-term mitigation of HFC consumption and emissions
  • Facilitate broad market uptake of HFC-free alternatives
Widespread adoption of HFC-free technologies is cost-effective, energy efficient, and climate-friendly.
Objectives:
  • Maximizing energy efficiency co-benefits
  • Raise awareness of available HFC-free alternatives
  • Ensuring direct transitions to lowest-GWP alternatives
Updating existing standards and codes, which currently prevent market uptake of HFC-free alternatives, is critical to successful implementation of a global phase down of HFCs.
Objectives:
  • Broaden stakeholder engagement in standards development
  • Accelerate adoption of updated standards, particularly in the U.S.
  • Remove market barriers posed by obsolete standards

Recent Reports

EIA Briefing to the UNFCCC COP22
11/07/2016
In October 2016, Parties to the Montreal Protocol adopted the Kigali Amendment on HFCs, which marks an historic achievement as the Paris Agreement comes into force in November.
Averting Climate Catastrophe: Our obligation to adopt an ambitious Kigali HFC amendment to the Montreal Protocol
10/03/2016
As the 28th Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol gets underway in Kigali, Rwanda, the momentum to tackle dangerous climate change has never been greater.

Recent Videos

India Takes Critical Step to Protect Global Climate from HFC-23
10/13/2016
India has announced its chemical industry, with immediate effect, must collect and destroy emissions of its most potent greenhouse gas, HFC-23. EIA first exposed the HFC-23 crisis ten years ago and has carried out investigations into HFC-23 venting in China and India.
Supermarkets, HFCs, and Global Warming
07/06/2015
Some of the largest supermarkets in the United States use man made gases known as HFCs in stores' refrigeration and air conditioning systems...
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What are the HFC-free Technologies?
Widespread adoption of HFC-free technologies is cost-effective, energy efficient, and climate-friendly. Read EIA’s report Putting the Freeze on HFCs for hundreds of examples of HFC-free technologies available and in use today.
Cornell's Lake Source Cooling
Help us mitigate climate destroying gases
HFC-free Technologies