After years of decline, the potential greenhouse effect of the fluorinated greenhouse gases used in Germany has recently remained unchanged. As the Federal Statistical Office reported, it was as high in 2022 as it was in 2021.

The limitation “potential” refers to the fact that these gases are mostly used in closed systems such as air conditioning systems. Their environmentally harmful effects only occur when they are released. “In this respect, the amount of fluorinated greenhouse gases used in a given year is not directly related to the amount of these gases released in a given year,” explains the office.

According to the Federal Office, around 5,984 tons of fluorinated greenhouse gases were used in Germany in 2022. That corresponds to 7.0 million tons of CO2 equivalents – the same as in 2021. In previous years, the potential greenhouse effect of these gases had steadily declined. In 2015 it was 17.2 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents.

The conversion to CO2 equivalents is necessary because different greenhouse gases have different effects on the climate. Carbon dioxide (CO2), which has a warming potential of 1, serves as a comparison variable. The CO2 equivalent expresses how many tons of CO2 the respective greenhouse gas contributes to global warming.

The agent that keeps the refrigerator cool

The Federal Environment Agency predicts greenhouse gas emissions for Germany in 2022 totaling 746 million tons of CO2 equivalents. That was almost two percent less than in 2021. The share of fluorinated greenhouse gases in all greenhouse gas emissions was therefore 1.3 percent in 2022.

The most commonly used fluorinated greenhouse gas in Germany is tetrafluoroethane. Over a period of 100 years, the substance contributes 1,300 times more to the greenhouse effect than CO2, according to the statisticians. In 2022, 2.4 million tons of CO2 equivalents of this gas were used – mainly as a refrigerant, for example in air conditioning systems and refrigerators.

However, compared to 2021, the amount used decreased. This means that the emission potential of this substance was reduced slightly by almost eight percent. Tetrafluoropropene, among others, is used as a replacement for tetrafluoroethane. This has a significantly lower climate impact. The use of this gas increased by almost ten percent from 2021 to 2022.

The think tank Agora has also published preliminary calculations according to which Germany will have produced fewer greenhouse gases overall in 2023 than it has in seven decades. Accordingly, emissions fell by 73 million tons from 2022 to 2023 to a total of 673 million tons of CO2 equivalents – which corresponds to a decrease of 46 percent compared to 1990.