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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 19% 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:
  • Expose and prevent illegal trade in synthetic chemicals
  • Successful implementation and enforcement of the Kigali Amendment to achieve a swift global phase-down of HFCs
  • 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
Illegal production, use, and trade in banned or controlled ozone-depleting substances and greenhouse gases used in the cooling sector remains a critical obstacle to international efforts to limit the worst impacts of climate change.

Recent Press Releases

Condenando El Bosque
06/26/2019
Un nuevo informe de investigación de Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), Condenando el Bosque, revela el modus operandi utilizado por traficantes para comercializar madera con permisos comprados en el mercado negro, incluyendo especies protegidas como el cedro; y detalla cómo intermediarios aprovechan vacíos legales para lavar madera y escapar cualquier responsabilidad legal, dejando que los titulares de los permisos de aprovechamiento paguen las consecuencias.
California Green Lights Incentive Program to Reduce HFCs
06/14/2019
This week California’s legislature approved a 2019-2020 budget providing $1 million to create an incentive program for reducing emissions of fluorinated greenhouse gases, including hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). Established by the California Cooling Act (SB1013) passed last year, the program will incentivize adoption of climate-friendly refrigerant technologies, with a mandate to also consider other co-benefits such as energy efficiency and opportunities for increasing recovery, reclamation, and destruction of refrigerants at end-of-life.

Recent Videos

Raw Intelligence: TBNI
06/12/2019
The managers of the company Transport Bois Négoce International (TBNI) know how to make big money off of logging the Congo Basin forest while keeping their profit hidden from Gabonese authorities. Yet their methods remain a secret no more, as company officials described in detail to EIA investigators the tricks of their trade.
Intelligence Brute: TBNI
06/12/2019
Les dirigeants de la société Transport Bois Négoce International (TBNI) savent comment gagner beaucoup d’argent en exploitant les forêts du Bassin du Congo, tout en gardant leurs bénéfices bien cachés aux yeux des autorités gabonaises. Mais leurs méthodes ne sont plus un secret, car l’un des responsables de la société a décrit en détail ces manigances aux enquêteurs sous-couverts d'EIA.
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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.
Where are HFCs used?
What are HFCs?
Help us mitigate climate destroying gases
How to Recycle Your Fridge