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Major agreement on HFCs with the strong backing of France : 72 billion tonnes de CO2 prevented

15 octobre 2016 - COP 21

An historical agreement was reached late in the night between the 197 countries party to the Montreal protocol in order to reduce the use of HFC gases.

This agreement will enable a gradual phase-out of HFCs (hydrofluorocarbons), used in air conditioning (offices, houses, vehicles), domestic appliances and refrigerated display units, restaurant and logistics warehouses.  These substances emerged over recent years as a substitute for substances that were harmful to the ozone layer (CFCs, HCFCs).

Without an agreement, experts estimated that these substances would cause 20% of greenhouse gas emissions in 2050, and would have generated up to 0.5°C in global warming by 2100.

The agreement reached last night will lead to a reduction in these gases as soon as the amendment enters into force, based on a progressive timetable that will enable substitution to begin in those countries that are the biggest consumers of refrigerants, in particular the United States, the European Union and China. Furthermore, it is legally binding and foresees a progressive phase-out timetable for all countries.

Moreover, a review clause has been added to the agreement, to enable a more ambitious timetable to be drawn up in view of technological progress and the beneficial effects of the significant reductions that will have already taken place in the countries that are the biggest consumers of refrigerants.  Ségolène Royal would like this review to be an opportunity to accelerate the initiative, in the same way as the review carried out on this very protocol for the phase-out of HCFC substances that ended with the timetable being brought forward.

Initial estimations of the agreement reached this morning point to the prevention of around 72 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent in emissions between now and 2050 (including 8 billion tonnes due to recently-adopted European and American legislation included in the agreement). Furthermore, a saving of an additional 8-10 tonnes of CO2 equivalent is expected from provisions concerning the recycling and elimination of co-products that have a major warming effect in HFC industrial manufacturing facilities. For the record, French annual emissions of human origin amount to half a billion tonnes of CO2.

This agreement will also enable the use, by individuals and professionals, of alternative refrigerants that are available today: hydrocarbons, carbon dioxide, ammonia, water or other synthetic chemical substances called hydrofluoroolefins (HFOs).

France - in particular under the impetus of Ségolène Royal - has made great efforts over recent months to facilitate this agreement: exchanges with ministers from the other countries, financial commitments, exemplary conduct through project and funding tenders in order to finance, on the one hand, research and development actions and, on the other hand, the industrial conversion of facilities producing equipment using alternative refrigerants.

Ségolène Royal underlines that this agreement will enable the reinforcement of the objective of the Paris Agreement to limit global warming to 1.5-2°C by 2100.

 Download the press release (PDF - 105 Ko)