Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) are man-made chemicals used in refrigeration and air conditioning.1 They were introduced in the late 1980s to replace several chemicals that were damaging the ozone layer. Although HFCs do not damage the ozone layer, they are powerful heat-trapping gases. Some HFCs capture several thousand times more heat than equivalent amounts of carbon dioxide.2
Global HFC emissions are small but growing rapidly. Huge numbers of refrigerators and air
conditioners around the world today contain HFCs. As these appliances reach the end of their
useful lives, the HFCs they contain will leak into the atmosphere. The potential climate change
impacts are significant. In the absence of mitigation and control strategies, HFCs could
increase global average temperatures by almost 1°F by 2100.3
Strategies for reducing HFC emissions focus on finding substitutes that serve similar purposes
but trap far less heat when released into the atmosphere. Options include natural refrigerants,
hydrofluoroolefins (HFOs) and lower global warming potential HFCs.4
HFCs are regulated under the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Protect the Ozone Layer, a
treaty dating to 1987. In 2016, parties to the Montreal Protocol adopted the Kigali Amendment,
which establishes timetables for significant reductions in the production and consumption of
HFCs in the decades ahead. The Kigali Amendment—which will enter into force January 1, 2019 —has been hailed as one of the most significant steps the world has taken to fight global warming.5
Chinese HFC Industry
China is the world’s largest producer and consumer of HFCs. More than 60% of global HFC production is in China. Chinese HFC consumption has grown rapidly, increasing almost tenfold between 2005 and 2013.6
Chinese companies manufacture both HFC chemicals and appliances that use them (including
refrigerators and air conditioners). Leading Chinese producers and exporters of HFCs include
Jinhua Shandong Dongyue Chemical, Sinochem Taicang, Yonghe Fluorochemical and Zhejiang
Lantian. Chinese companies also manufacture approximately 70% of global room air conditioners. Leading Chinese manufacturers of room air conditioners include Gree, Midea and Haier.8
China’s HFC Policies—International
China participates actively in international negotiations on HFCs under the Montreal Protocol.
In 2016, China joined 196 other countries in adopting the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal
Protocol. The Kigali Amendment sets three timetables for deep reductions in production and
consumption of HFCs:
● Most industrialized countries agreed to reduce production and consumption 10% by
2019, with reductions ultimately reaching 85% by 2036.
● Most developing countries agreed to peak production and consumption of HFCs by
2024, with reductions ultimately reaching 80% by 2045.
● Some developing countries in especially hot climates agreed to peak production and
consumption of HFCs by 2028, with reductions ultimately reaching 85% by 2045.9
China joined the second group of developing countries, committing to peak production and
consumption of HFCs by 2024.
HFCs played a high-profile role in China-US diplomacy during the Obama presidency. In 2013,
President Xi Jinping and President Barack Obama met for their first full summit in Sunnylands, California. The major announcement at the conclusion of that summit was an agreement by the two countries to work together on HFCs.10 HFCs received considerable attention at all subsequent Obama-Xi meetings, including President Obama’s November 2014 visit to Beijing and President Xi’s September 2015 visit to Washington.11 China has agreements to work cooperatively on HFCs with other countries and groups of countries, including the European Union.12
China’s HFC Policies—Domestic
The Chinese government is promoting alternatives to HFCs and working to reduce HFC
● In 2013, the Ministry of Environmental Protection released a management plan for
phasing out HFCs and held meetings about closing down HFC production lines as
part of an awareness-raising campaign.13
● In 2014, China’s National Plan for Climate Change 2014–2020 called on industry
to significantly reduce HFC emissions and enhance investment in research and
development for HFC alternatives.14
● Similarly, the Action Plan for the Development of Energy Conservation, Emissions
Reduction and Low Carbon (2014–2015) calls for “strengthen[ing] the management
of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) emissions, accelerat[ing] the destruction of HFCs and finding HFCs alternatives.” The action plan further states that “during 12th FYP
period, China should cumulatively reduce emissions [of HFCs] by 280 million tons of
carbon dioxide equivalent.”15
● In May 2015, NDRC issued a notice asking companies to submit an HFC-23 mitigation
plan by year end. NDRC also began offering subsidies for HFC emissions mitigation.
Subsidies are set at RMB 4 per ton of CO2e through 2019, after which they transition
to 1 RMB per year.16
● NDRC reports that in 2016 it “organized the local commissions to report
trifluoromethane (HFC-23) disposed by enterprises…arranged for random third-party
verification, and together with relevant ministries, implemented the relevant policies
that ensure the normal operation of devices to phase out HFC-23.”17
● During the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016–2020), the Chinese government is taking
several steps to promote R290 (a low GWP HFC substitute) for room air conditioners
and commercial refrigeration, including completing the upgrade of at least 20 R290
manufacturing lines and three R290 compressor manufacturing lines.18
1. HFCS are also used in foams, solvents and other products. Most HFC consumption is for refrigeration and air
2. “UNEP Fact Sheet,” at p.6, http://multimedia.3m.com/mws/media/1365924O/unep-fact-sheet-kigali-amendment-to-mp.pdf.
3. HFCs are the fastest growing greenhouse gases in much of the world, increasing at a rate of 10–15% per year.
Without action, radiative forcing from HFCs could increase as much as 30-fold by 2050, from a forcing of 0.012
W/m2 to as much as 0.40 W/m2. See G. J. M. Velders et al., “Preserving Montreal Protocol Climate Benefits
by Limiting HFCs,” Science 335, no. 6071 (2012): 922–923; White House, “Fact Sheet: The G-20 St. Petersburg
4. See PRIMER ON HFCS, IGSD WORKING PAPER, table 3 (2018), http://www.igsd.org/primers/hfc/.
5. See Coral Davenport, “Nations, Fighting Powerful Refrigerant That Warms Planet, Reach Landmark Deal,” New York Times (October 15, 2016), https://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/15/world/africa/kigali-deal-hfc-air-conditioners.html?mcubz=2&_r=0.
6. See Feng Hao, “Chinese manufacturers under pressure to phase out HFCs,” China Dialogue (November 28,
2016) (60% of global CO2 production is in China), https://www.chinadialogue.net/article/show/single/en/9426-
Chinese-manufacturers-under-pressure-to-phase-out-HFCs; Xuekun Fang, Guus J. M. Velders, A. R. Ravishankara, Mario J. Molina, Jianxin Hu and Ronald G. Prinn, “Hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) Emissions in China: An Inventory for 2005−2013 and Projections to 2050,” Global Change (2016) at p.2030 (almost 10-fold increase in consumption between 2005 and 2013), https://globalchange.mit.edu/sites/default/files/MITJPSPGC_Reprint_16-20.pdf.
7. Fang et al., “Hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) Emissions in China” (2016) at p.2030.
8. See US International Trade Commission, Hydrofluorocarbon Blends and Components from China (August 2016) at p.vii–3, https://www.usitc.gov/publications/701_731/pub4629.pdf; Xiaopu Sun and Tad Ferris, “The Kigali
Amendments and China’s Critical Roles in Evolving the Montreal Protocol, Trends (September/October 2018);
Won Young Park, Nihar Shah and Brian Gerke, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), “Assessment of
commercially available energy-efficient room air conditioners” (October 2017) at p.26, https://eta.lbl.gov/sites/
9. “UNEP Fact Sheet,” http://multimedia.3m.com/mws/media/1365924O/unep-fact-sheet-kigali-amendment-to-mp.pdf.
10. The White House, Office of the Press Secretary, “United States and China Agree to Work Together on Phase
Down of HFCs” (June 8, 2013), https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-ofce/2013/06/08/united-states-andchina-agree-work-together-phase-down-hfcs.
11. The White House, “U.S.-China Joint Announcement on Climate Change and Clean Energy Cooperation”
(November 11, 2014), https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-ofce/2014/11/11/fact-sheet-us-china-jointannouncement-climate-change-and-clean-energy-c.
12. European Commission, “Joint Statement: Deepening the EU-China Comprehensive Strategic Partnership for
Mutual Benefit” (2014), http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_STATEMENT-14-89_en.htm.
13. NDRC, “中国应对气候变化行动和政策” [China’s policies and actions on climate change] (2014), http://www.sdpc.gov.cn/gzdt/201411/W020141126538031815914.pdf.
14. NDRC, “国家应对气候变化规划2014–2020年,” http://www.sdpc.gov.cn/zcfb/zcfbtz/201411/W020141104584717807138.pdf.
15. State Council,《2014–2015年节能减排低碳发展行动方案》,http://www.gov.cn/zhengce/content/2014-05/26/content_8824.htm.
16. NDRC, “Notification Requesting Companies to Submit an HFC-23 Mitigation Plan” (May 13, 2015), http://www.sdpc.gov.cn/gzdt/201505/t20150515_692028.html; NDRC, “China’s Policies and Actions for Addressing Climate Change” (2016) at p.17, http://www.greengrowthknowledge.org/national-documents/china%E2%80%99s-policiesand-actions-addressing-climate-change-2016; Yao Bo et al., Opportunities to Enhance Non-Carbon Dioxide Greenhouse Gas Mitigation in China (World Resources Institute, May 2016), http://www.wri.org/sites/default/files/Opportunities_to_enhance_non-CO2_GHG_mitigation_in_China.pdf.
17. NDRC, “China’s Policies and Actions” (2017) at p.13.
18. Sun and Ferris, “The Kigali Amendments” (September/October 2018). For more information on China’s HFC programs, see Carolyn Zhong, “China’s Actions to Promote Low GWP Alternatives,” EIA (April 12, 2016), https://eia-global.org/blogposts/chinas-actions-to-promote-low-gwp-alternatives-the-27th-china-refrigeration;
“China Backs Natural Refrigerants: The Reaction from Chinese Industry,” CCM Data and Business Intelligence (July 23, 2015), http://www.cnchemicals.com/Press/76346-China%20Backs%20Natural%20Refrigerants:%20the%20Reaction%20from%20Chinese%20Industry.html;
Melanie Hart, “China’s Shifting Stance on Hydrofluorocarbons,” Center for American Progress (June 12, 2013), https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/security/reports/2013/06/12/66251/chinas-shifting-stance-on-hydrofluorocarbons/