HFCs and CFCs

Background

Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) are man-made chemicals used in refrigeration and air-conditioning.[1] They were introduced in the late 1980s to replace chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and other 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]

Huge numbers of refrigerators and air conditioners around the world today contain HFCs. Demand for this cooling equipment is increasing rapidly. (The global stock of roughly 1.4 billion air conditioners is projected to more than triple by 2050.) As these appliances reach the end of their useful lives, the HFCs they contain will leak into the atmosphere. The climate change impacts are significant.[3]

Global HFC emissions are growing rapidly. 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 Deplete 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 entered into force January 1, 2019—is projected to avoid 0.44°C (0.8°F) of global warming by 2100. It 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 increased almost tenfold between 2005 and 2013.[6]

Figure 14-1: HFC consumption and emissions in China (2005-2013)

Chinese companies manufacture both HFC chemicals and appliances that use them. Leading Chinese producers and exporters of HFCs include Jinhua Shandong Dongyue Chemical, Sinochem Taicang, Yonghe Fluorochemical and Zhejiang Lantian. Chinese companies manufacture more than 60% of the world’s refrigerators and more than 80% of the world’s residential air conditioners.[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.

  1. Most industrialized countries agreed to reduce production and consumption 10% by 2019, with reductions ultimately reaching 85% by 2036.
  2. Most developing countries agreed to peak production and consumption of HFCs by 2024, with reductions ultimately reaching 80% by 2045.
  3. 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 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. 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.[10]

Ratification and implementation of the Kigali Amendment was highlighted at the China-EU Summit in 2018 and China-France Summit in 2019.[11]

 

China’s HFC Policies—Domestic

The Chinese government is promoting alternatives to HFCs and working to reduce HFC production capacity.

  • 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.[12]
  • 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.[13]
  • 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.”[14]
  • 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.[15]
  • 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.”[16]
  • NDRC reports that in 2017 it “organized the inspection of the disposal of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), published the inspection results of 11 enterprises, ensured the normal operation of HFC-23 destruction devices, and provided quota-based subsidies to enterprises that perform destruction.”[17]
  • In 2019, seven ministries and agencies jointly released the Green and High-Efficiency Cooling Action Plan, which includes plans research, development and deployment of low-global warming potential (GWP) and high-efficiency refrigerants.[18]
  • 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.[19]
Box

References

[1] HFCS are also used in foams, solvents and other products. Most HFC consumption is for refrigeration and air-conditioning.

[2] Ezra Clark and Sonja Wagner, The Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol: HFC Phase-down (UNEP 2016) at p.6.

[3] K-CEP, IGSD, Energy Foundation, U4E and Carbon Trust, Efficient, Clean Cooling: A Major Near-Term Opportunity for China (2018) (estimating 1.6 billion air conditioners currently in use); S. Sachar, I. Campbell and A. Kalanki, Solving the Global Cooling Challenge: How to Counter the Climate Threat from Room Air Conditioners, Rocky Mountain Institute (2018) (estimating roughly 1.2 billion air conditioners currently in use); IEA, The Future of Cooling (May 2018).

[4] Durwood Zaelke et al., Primer on HFCs (Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development, January 2018).

[5] See Coral Davenport, “Nations, Fighting Powerful Refrigerant That Warms Planet, Reach Landmark Deal,” New York Times (October 15, 2016); World Meteorological Organization, Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion (2018).

[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); 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 tenfold increase in consumption between 2005 and 2013).

[7] Fang et al., “Hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) Emissions in China” (2016) at p.2030.

[8] NDRC et al., Green and High-Efficiency Cooling Action Plan (June 13, 2019) (Chinese); NDRC et al., Green and High-Efficiency Cooling Action Plan (June 13, 2019) (English); 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, “Assessment of commercially available energy-efficient room air conditioners” (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, October 2017) at p.26; US International Trade Commission, Hydrofluorocarbon Blends and Components from China (August 2016) at p.vii–3.

[9] “UNEP Fact Sheet.”

[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); The White House, “US-China Joint Announcement on Climate Change and Clean Energy Cooperation” (November 11, 2014).

[11] EU-China Leaders’ Statement On Climate Change And Clean Energy (16 July 2018); China-France Joint Declaration on Maintaining Multilateralism and Improving Global Governance (26 March 2019).

[12] NDRC, China’s Policies and Actions on Climate Change (2014).

[13] NDRC, “国家应对气候变化规划2014–2020年,” [China’s National Plan for Climate Change 2014-2020].

[14] State Council,《2014–2015年节能减排低碳发展行动方案》.

[15] NDRC, “Notification Requesting Companies to Submit an HFC-23 Mitigation Plan” (May 13, 2015), http://www.sdpc.gov.cn/gzdt/201505/t20150515_692028.html; Yao Bo et al., Opportunities to Enhance Non-Carbon Dioxide Greenhouse Gas Mitigation in China (World Resources Institute, May 2016);
NDRC, China’s Policies and Actions for Addressing Climate Change (October 2016) at p.17.

[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; Yao Bo et al., Opportunities to Enhance Non-Carbon Dioxide Greenhouse Gas Mitigation in China (World Resources Institute, May 2016);

[17] NDRC, China’s Policies and Actions for Addressing Climate Change (October 2017) at p.13.

[18] NDRC, China's Policies and Actions for Addressing Climate Change (November 2018) at p.13.

[19] NDRC et al., Green and High-Efficiency Cooling Action Plan (June 13, 2019) (Chinese); NDRC et al., Green and High-Efficiency Cooling Action Plan (June 13, 2019) (English).

[20] 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); “China Backs Natural Refrigerants: The Reaction from Chinese Industry,” CCM Data and Business Intelligence (July 23, 2015).

[21] Ezra Clark and Sonja Wagner, The Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol: HFC Phase-down (UNEP 2016) at p.6; Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer at Article 2A, “CFCs.”

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