How the EU reduces greenhouse gases beyond CO2

Find out how the EU works to reduce emissions from greenhouse gases besides CO2.

As the EU works hard to reduce CO2 emissions, it is also making efforts to regulate other greenhouse gases heating up planet Earth, such as methane, fluorinated gases - also known as F-gases - and ozone-depleting substances. Although they are present in smaller volumes than CO2 in the atmosphere, they can have a significant warming effect.

MEPs pushed for ambitious emission reductions of fluorinated greenhouse gases and ozone-depleting substances. They supported the European Commission’s proposals to encourage the use of alternatives to fluorinated greenhouse gases and ozone-depleting substances where possible or to put measures in place to reduce their leakage and emission during production or use.

Parliament approved the new rules on fluorinated gas emission reductions and ozone-depleting substances in January 2024 in line with the European Green Deal and global climate goals.

Cutting fluorinated greenhouse gases emissions

What are fluorinated gases?

Fluorinated gases are man-made and can be found in common appliances such as refrigerators, air conditioning or heat pumps, aerosols, solvents and foam blowing agents. They account for around 2.5% of EU’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Even though F-gases are found in smaller volumes in the atmosphere than CO2, they can capture more sun energy. The EU must reduce their emissions to achieve its 2050 goal of cutting down emissions to net zero.

As they do not damage the atmospheric ozone layer, F-gases are often used as substitutes for ozone-depleting substances.

What has the EU done so far?

F-gases are covered by the Paris Agreement together with CO2, methane and nitrous oxide as well as under international agreements on ozone-depleting substances.

To control emissions from F-gases, the EU has adopted the F-gas Regulation and the Mobile Air Conditioning systems Directive. Every year the European Environment Agency reports on the production, import, export, destruction and feedstock use of F-gases emitted by companies in the EU.

What are the new rules on Fluorinated gases?

The new measures to further reduce F-gases in the EU include:

  • Total phase out of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) by 2050 - with a trajectory to reduce the EU consumption quota between 2024-2049
  • Strict requirements that prohibit the placing on the single market of products containing F-gases - providing certainty for manufacturers and stimulating the uptake of more climate-friendly solutions
  • Specific phase-out dates for the use of F-gases in sectors where it is technologically and economically feasible to switch to alternatives that do not use F-gases, such as domestic refrigeration, air conditioning and heat pumps.

Phasing out ozone-depleting gases

What are ozone-depleting substances?

Found in similar appliances as F-gases, ozone-depleting substances are also man-made chemicals. When they reach the upper atmosphere, these substances may damage the ozone layer, which keeps the Earth from dangerous solar radiation.

What has the EU done so far?

Because of their impact on the environment, ozone-depleting substances are being phased out by the EU in line with a global agreement from 1989 known as the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer and to comply with the EU climate goals and the Paris Agreement.

What changes with the new rules?

In order to further cut emissions, MEPs adopted new rules, including a ban on the production, use or trade of ozone-depleting substances, except for strictly defined cases.

The law introduces requirements to recover and recycle such substances in building materials during renovations (found in particular in insulation foams), which is the main source of remaining emissions in the EU.

Before they can enter into force, the regulations on F-gases and ozone-depleting substances have to be formally endorsed by the Council as well.

Reducing methane emissions

What is methane?

Methane occurs naturally in the atmosphere but is also generated through human activities, such as agriculture, industry and the combustion of fossil fuels. A powerful greenhouse gas, methane is the second biggest contributor to climate change after CO2, accounting for about a third of the current rise in global temperatures.

What is the EU doing?

In April 2024 Parliament adopted the first EU law aimed at cutting methane emissions. The new rules set binding methane reduction targets for the energy sector, covering emissions from oil, fossil gas and coal.

The measures include:

  • Stronger obligations to detect and repair methane leaks
  • A ban on venting and flaring of methane from drainage stations by 2025 and from ventilation shafts by 2027
  • An obligation to establish mitigation plans for abandoned coalmines and inactive oil and fossil gas wells (requiring the finding, sealing and monitoring of these sites)

As of 2027, the requirements will extend to imported oil, gas and coal.

More on fluorinated greenhouse gases and ozone-depleting substances