Why the rules for HFCs changed

A change in the rules ensures that New Zealand law is in line with the Kigali Amendment, an international agreement for reducing the levels of HFCs in the Earth's atmosphere.

The Kigali Amendment is an adjustment to the Montreal Protocol, an international agreement adopted by New Zealand, to phase out certain gases which damage the Earth’s ozone layer. Many of these gases were used for refrigeration, air conditioning, aerosol propellants and foam production.

The Montreal Protocol is thought to be one of the most successful and effective international environmental treaties – the declining levels of ozone-depleting substances in the atmosphere means the ozone layer is recovering, and is expected to fully recover later this century.

HFCs and climate change

To reduce our reliance on ozone-depleting gases, the man-made gases collectively known as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) were developed. They are also known as one of the fluorinated gases, ‘F-gases’, and individually under their chemical names (prefixed by ‘HFC-', ‘R-', and sometimes under the Freon brand name).

Although HFCs have a smaller impact on the ozone layer, they are potent greenhouse gases which warm the atmosphere and contribute to climate change. Reducing levels of HFCs will avoid up to 0.5 degrees of global warming by 2100. So in 2016, the Montreal Protocol was amended (the Kigali Amendment) to ensure that industrialised and developing member countries reduce their HFC production and consumption over time.

Importing or exporting bulk HFCs 

New Zealand law has changed to reflect the Kigali Amendment. After 31 December 2019, you will need a permit to import or export bulk HFCs. The future effect on the atmosphere (measured by carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent) of new bulk HFCs imported into New Zealand will be reduced gradually until 2036 (see graph below).

The new rules set limits on how much new bulk HFC can be imported, and encourage the move to alternative gases or HFCs with less potential to warm the atmosphere (lower ‘global warming potential’, GWP).

Graph showing annual limit on importation of HFCs in NZ (in CO²-equivalent tonnes)

Graph showing annual limit HFC import CO equivalent into NZ 2020-2036

For a copy of the Ozone Layer Protection Amendment Regulations 2018 - NZ Legislation website 

Find out more about the Montreal Protocol, including the Kigali Amendment - United Nations Environment Programme website

Read about the Ministry for the Environment consultation on New Zealand's implementation of the Kigali Amendment - Ministry for the Environment website

How to apply for a permit to import HFCs into New Zealand

How to apply for a permit to export HFCs out of New Zealand

Find out more about the carbon dioxide equivalent and global warming potential of HFCs

HFCs and the Emissions Trading Scheme

The requirements for importers and exporters of synthetic greenhouse gases under New Zealand’s Emissions Trading Scheme remain the same, and are in addition to these new limits and permits for HFCs.

For more information about your obligations under the Emissions Trading Scheme