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What Are Hydrofluorocarbons?

HFCs: Super Greenhouse Gases

HFCs or hydrofluorocarbons, are super greenhouse gases, manufactured for use in refrigeration, air conditioning, foam blowing, aerosols, fire protection and solvents. HFCs unlike most other greenhouse gases are not waste products but are intentionally produced. HFCs were developed as alternatives to ozone depleting substances that are being phased-out under the Montreal Protocol. Unfortunately, HFCs have a global warming potential 1000 to 3000 times that of CO2, and their use has increased from almost nothing in 1990 to 1,100 million tonnes of CO2e in 2010. HFC emissions (excluding HFC-23 by-product) currently account for around 1% of global greenhouse gas emissions and as much as 3% in many developed countries. If left unchecked, these emissions will increase to 7-19% of all greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and off-set most if not all mitigation actions pledged by countries to date.

Do We Have to Use These Climate-Destroying Gases?

No! HFC-free technologies are currently available, and more are coming on-line every year so that most uses could be phased-out by 2020 and the remaining uses by 2030. Some of the currently available climate-friendly alternatives include hydrocarbons, ammonia (R- 717), water and carbon dioxide (CO2 or R-744). Other alternatives refrigerants, such as isobutane (R-600a) propylene (R-1270); and not-in-kind alternatives, such as solar, are also likely to be commercialized and enter the market in the next few years. EIA works to encourage transitions by working with supermarkets, breaking down barriers to change in all industries, and by encouraging domestic actions.

Recent Posts

Major Climate Win: Lessons for the Montreal Protocol
02/10/2021
Two new papers published in Nature suggest that the CFC-11 emissions are back on a downward trajectory potentially avoiding substantial delays in the recovery of the ozone layer. The papers show an accelerated decline in global atmospheric concentrations of CFC-11 from 2018 to 2019, and attribute 60% of the decline to China. This is a huge win for the ozone layer and our climate, which would not have been possible without a concerted global response to the findings from the ground and the atmosphere.
The AIM Act: Your Questions on U.S. HFC Legislation – Answered
01/07/2021
A new year’s gift for our climate came wrapped in the coronavirus relief package passed by Congress at the end of 2020. Among the bill’s several significant climate provisions is the American Innovation and Manufacturing Act, or AIM Act, that enacts a phase-down of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).

Recent Reports

Leaking Havoc: Exposing Your Supermarket’s Invisible Climate Pollution
02/15/2021
An EIA investigation into dozens of supermarkets in the greater Washington, D.C. area, including Virginia and Maryland, found a majority of stores to be leaking super-pollutant hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants
LETTER: EIA, IIAR and over 120 Stakeholders Call on California to Require Climate-Friendly Cooling in Ice Rinks
12/10/2020
EIA and the International Institute of Ammonia Refrigeration (IIAR) joined by over 120 other stakeholders, submitted a letter to the California Air Resources Board calling to limit refrigerants in new ice rink refrigeration systems to under a 150 global warming potential (GWP).

Recent Press Releases

Leaking Havoc
02/15/2021
An EIA investigation into dozens of supermarkets in the greater Washington, D.C. area, including Virginia and Maryland, found a majority of stores to be leaking super-pollutant hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants
U.S. Congress Passes Bipartisan HFC Legislation
12/23/2020
Legislation passed by the U.S. Congress this week to provide COVID relief and fund the U.S. government includes a bipartisan climate agreement to phase-down production and consumption of super-pollutant hydrofluorocarbons (HFC). The bill authorizes the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to implement the 2016 agreement to phase down HFCs under the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, and provides broader authority to manage existing sources of HFC emissions.

Recent Videos

Leaking Havoc: Exposing Your Supermarket’s Invisible Climate Pollution
02/15/2021
An EIA investigation into dozens of supermarkets in the greater Washington, D.C. area, including Virginia and Maryland, found a majority of stores to be leaking super-pollutant hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants
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.
A Global HFC Phase-down
The October 2016 Montreal Protocol meeting in Kigali, Rwanda yielded a global agreement to phase down HFCs. Now countries must ratify and implement the Kigali Amendment! Read and share EIA's briefing on this great opportunity and obligation to avert climate catastrophe.
Help us mitigate climate destroying gases
Where are HFCs used?
What are HFCs?
How to Recycle Your Fridge