UK parliament at sunset

UK needs fast action on climate-harming F-gases to reach net-zero

In June, the UK became the first major economy to commit to net-zero emissions by 2050 – the UK Government must now ensure it has an effective action plan to meet this ambition and go even further.

The Committee on Climate Change has called out the Government for failing to publish a plan to restrict F-gases – a range of greenhouse gases widely used in refrigeration and air-conditioning, most notably hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) – to uses where there are currently no viable alternatives.

Reducing emissions from refrigeration and air conditioning further and faster than the EU’s F-Gas Regulation requires is a critical and viable policy for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

Refrigeration in supermarkets can be a major source of climate-warming HFC emissions (c) EIAimage

The UK has an opportunity to move ahead of the F-Gas Regulation, which dictates a step-wise phase-down of HFCs by 79 per cent by 2030. Alongside the HFC supply cuts, the Regulation includes sectoral bans for certain HFCs in new equipment. These bans on seriously damaging refrigerants should be brought forward, especially for commercial refrigeration where myriad alternatives exist and have been widely rolled out in the UK. Bringing forward the 2022 bans on HFCs in new commercial refrigeration would have a huge impact on the overall emissions from supermarkets.

Bans on air-conditioning may seem less relevant for the UK but rising temperatures and the news that London will have a climate similar to Barcelona by 2050 may usher in growth in the air-conditioning market with related increased emissions. Consequently, the ban on certain HFCs in new air-conditioning units should also be brought forward from the current proposed date of 2025 and extended to all HFCs to avoid locking in climate-damaging equipment.

The UK Government should also act to restrict the use of HFCs in heat pumps, which are being increasingly used as a climate-friendly alternative to gas boilers but often use refrigerants with a high Global Warming Potential (GWP).

As a first step, the UK must re-evaluate the Renewable Heat Incentive to ensure it is not subsidising the uptake of heat pumps using HFCs and to ensure it incentivises only the adoption of technologies using low GWP alternatives, in line with the F-Gas Regulation. Natural refrigerant alternatives are available for most types of heat pumps and greatly improve the already green credentials of this heating source.

Sophie Geoghegan, Climate Campaigner, said: “If the UK wants to be a green leader, it must follow through on its net-zero ambition with concrete plans to drastically reduce emissions in the near-term.

“Fast action on eliminating the powerful greenhouse gases used in the cooling sector would set the UK on the right path.”