5 things you need to know about HFCs and the F-GAS family

  • In 2005, CFCs, HCFCs and HFCs were responsible for 17% of direct global warming.

  • While CFC and HCFC emissions go down, HFC emissions are going up by 15% a year.

  • If we do everything to keep global warming below 2oC, but do nothing about HFCs, they will responsible for the equivalent of between 28% and 45% of carbon emissions by 2050.

  • HFC 134a, the most abundant HFC in use today, is 3,830 times more powerful than CO2 as a greenhouse gas over a 20-year period.

  • By 2050, developing countries will consume 8 times more HFCs than developed countries.

CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons)

These are the first and most well-known class of F-gases. They are both ozone depleting and powerful greenhouse gases. From 2010, CFC production or consumption anywhere in the world is illegal. They are regulated by the Montreal Protocol.

HFCs (hydrofluorocarbons)

The third generation of F-gases is yet another 'temporary' replacement for CFCs. Although HFCs do not deplete the ozone layer, they are extremely potent greenhouse gases, some even more powerful than CFCs. There is currently no international agreement to phase them out. They are included in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) basket of controlled greenhouse gases.

EXAMPLE: HFC 134a is a refrigerant used by many Malaysian companies who mistakenly think this is a good alternative. While it is Non Ozone depleting it has a 20-year Global Warming Potential of 3,830, which means that it is 3,830 times more powerful than CO2 as a greenhouse gas over a 20-year period.

How much Carbon Dioxide is released into the world yearly?

HFC's are 'super-greenhouse gases' up to thousands of times more powerful than CO2. They pose a growing threat to the climate. By 2005, this group of 'super-greenhouse gases' was responsible for 17% of climate change impacts.

Molecule for molecule, some of them have the capacity to heat the planet thousands of times more than carbon dioxide. As a result, you don't need much F-gas to do serious damage to the climate. It only takes about 300g of F-gas to keep one domestic refrigerator working.

The release into the atmosphere of 300 grams of HFC-134a, the most commonly used HFC today, is equivalent to the carbon emissions from driving a Volkswagen Golf, from London to Moscow!

The use of F-gases around the world is expanding rapidly. While the first two generations of F-gases (CFCs and HCFCs) are being eliminated under the Montreal Protocol (the United Nations ozone agreement), the third generation, HFCs, is fast replacing them. This is despite the fact that HFCs are supposed to be regulated under the international climate framework, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) - in fact, since the implementation of the UNFCCC's Kyoto Protocol, HFC emissions have risen by 15% a year.

While HFCs don't deplete the ozone layer like their predecessors they are extremely powerful greenhouse gases.

A report by top scientists shows that if we only focus on reducing CO2 and do nothing about HFCs, they will be responsible for between 28% and 45% of carbon-equivalent emissions by 2050.