By Ethan Bilby and Barbara Lewis
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - F-gases, used in refrigeration and linked with high levels of global warming, need to be cut substantially by 2030, Europe's climate boss said on Tuesday.
She added that she would be pushing for a global plan on cutting fluorinated gases at U.N. climate change talks in Doha beginning later this month.
"F-gases should be two-thirds reduced from today's levels by 2030," Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard told an audience representing the refrigeration industry.
"If F-gases contribute less, other sectors will have to do more," she added, referring to the EU's non-binding goal to cut greenhouse gas emissions by between 80-95 percent by the middle of the century. It also has a binding 2020 target to achieve a 20 percent emissions reduction.
F-gases refer to a group of fluorinated greenhouse gases, which are used in air conditioning, for instance, in cars, as well as in domestic, supermarket and industrial refrigeration.
Some two decades after international action led to the phase-out of ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), the European Union is pushing to eliminate a new generation of F-gas chemicals.
The gases were introduced as an solution that was easily acceptable to industry, since the production chain to make them was similar to CFCs.
But their global warming potential, thousands of times more damaging than carbon dioxide, has led the European Union to push to ban them in favor of natural non-synthetic alternatives, such as ammonia or CO2, which has high cooling properties when used in refrigeration.
Later this month at the U.N. summit on global efforts to tackle climate change, Hedegaard said Europe would be pushing for urgent action on F-gases to help close the gap between emissions cuts so far and those needed.
She said she hoped collaboration from smaller nations, such as island states at risk of sinking under rising sea levels, would help to overcome expected resistance to tackling F-gases from major emitters, such as India and China.
The Commission, the EU's executive, launched a review of existing EU law on F-gases in 2011 and is expected to publish its proposals for tightening it over the coming days.
Industry said the new measures were expected to include a ban on hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), the most common CFC replacement gases, in new cooling equipment.
As well as contributing to warming, experts say their impact on the ozone layer, while less than CFCs, is still too high.
Hedegaard said F-gases stood out in the European Union in that their use was rising, while other greenhouse gas emissions had fallen.
She cited a 60 percent increase in the European Union, compared with an 18 percent drop in carbon emissions since 1990.
Across the European Union, nations and industry have had mixed success in moving away from F-gases toward non-synthetic options. Hedegaard's native Denmark has achieved the most.
Outside the bloc, Switzerland is a leader.
Roughly 20 percent of Coop supermarkets in Switzerland already use low-power carbon cooling, and all new stores are being fitted with the technology.
The change is saving electricity, which helps cut costs as well as emissions, on which the Coop has ambitious goals.
"We aim to be carbon neutral by 2023, reducing emissions as much as possible - that means (targeting) refrigeration," Coop's Georg Weinhofer told Reuters. (Editing by James Jukwey)
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