Fluorinated greenhouse gases contribute to global warming. Emissions of these substances are set to climb worldwide owing to the growing demand for refrigeration and air conditioning systems.

Fluorinated greenhouse gases

Fluorinated greenhouse gases (F-gases, i.e. hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs) and sulphur hexafluoride (SF6)) are used for myriad purposes, including as refrigerants, for foam products, and in aerosols. Some of these substances have a very high global warming potential.

Facts and figures

Global demand for fluorinated greenhouse gases is growing steadily due to the fact that (a) these substances are used as substitutes for ozone-depleting chemicals; and (b) worldwide demand for cooling solutions is rising steadily. Worldwide F-gas emissions are set to rise to around four gigatons CO2 equivalent by 2050 if no reduction measures are instituted. According to a 2010 UBA study on worldwide F-gas emissions, in 2004 these gases accounted for 1.3 percent of the greenhouse effect, a figure which subsequently increased to 7.9 percent, relative to direct global CO2 emissions. This study underscores yet again the need for further international F-gas reduction measures – notwithstanding the fact that the study is predicated on only a moderate increase in F-gas emissions.

Projections for Germany

A somewhat different trend appears to be in the offing in Germany. Although the technical and legal measures that have been instituted to date may well reduce fluorinated greenhouse gas emissions for the foreseeable future, steadily growing numbers of installations may ultimately reverse this trend. Hence the UBA study posited a scenario with further measures which shows that F-gas emissions can be sustainably reduced.