Industry Showcases Climate-Friendly Alternatives to Super-Greenhouse HFCs
Optimism Builds for HFC Controls Under Montreal Protocol
Bangkok, 21 July 2012 – More than 400 representatives from industry, government and civil society gathered this weekend in Bangkok to highlight the wide range of existing and rapidly emerging climate-friendly alternatives to hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), super greenhouse gases used in refrigeration, air conditioning, insulating foams, medical aerosol products, and other sectors. Speakers from industry, government, and public interest organizations were united on the inevitability of the HFC phase-down which is already well underway in some nations and were open to each other’s suggestions for incentives, financing and technology cooperation under the Montreal Protocol.
According to Atul Bagai, a UNEP coordinator for Asia and the Pacific, the conference was particularly helpful for developing countries that are in the process of making the transition away from ozone depleting substances and looking for cost-effective, climate-friendly alternatives. “It is reassuring for developing countries to see that a wide variety of alternatives that are both climate and ozone safe are either already available, or in the oven, for most applications.”
The conference precedes a working meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol, where pressure has been building for the past three years to phase down HFCs with high global warming potential and secure significant climate mitigation – up to 146 billion tonnes of CO2-equivalent reductions by 2050. The growing demand for air conditioning in a warming world and the ongoing phase-out of hydrochlorofluorocarbons under the Montreal Protocol together have made HFCs the fastest growing climate pollutant in the U.S. and many other countries.
“The conference in Bangkok shows that industry is already replacing HFCs with climate-friendly alternatives while creating new jobs in green technology. Industry sees the writing on the wall and the triple benefits to the bottom line - affordable, sustainable, and marketable alternatives,” said Durwood Zaelke, President of the Institute of Governance & Sustainable, a leading advocacy group promoting more climate protection from the Montreal Protocol. He added, “More than 100 countries have already expressed support for reducing HFCs under the Montreal Protocol.”
The inevitability of a phase-down under the Montreal Protocol was echoed by the Alliance for Responsible Atmospheric Policy, an industry coalition composed of about 100 manufacturers and businesses that produce and use HFCs and other similar chemicals, as well as the climate-friendly alternatives.
"The fluorocarbon producing and using industries have demonstrated their commitment to continuous improvement efforts when aided by clear goals and a consistent, technically-based policy environment. Efforts to address HFCs as part of the desire to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions will succeed if the lessons from 25 years of Montreal Protocol implementation are adhered to. These include science-based policies, credible technology and economic assessments, acknowledgment of the special needs and responsibilities of developing countries, and targeted and cost-effective financial assistance," said Kevin Fay, ARAP Special Counsel.
Coca-Cola representative Bryan Jacob said, “We are proud of our work to rapidly phase out potent greenhouse gases. Natural refrigerant-based technologies have been commercially available for point-of-sale applications for some time now and will continue to penetrate the market. But strong support from political decision makers for climate and environment-friendly refrigeration can further accelerate their market uptake."
Political momentum for an HFC amendment has been growing for the past three years. Last year,108 parties signed the Bangkok Declaration calling for low-GWP alternatives to CFCs and HCFCs. And last month at the Rio+20 summit, more than one hundred heads of State called for the gradual phase-down of HFC production and consumption in the conference declaration, The Future We Want.
“The turnout of more than 400 participants from 60 countries as well as industry, international organizations and civil society demonstrates the strong interest in understanding the options for transitioning to climate- friendlier technologies" said Cindy Newberg Chief of the Alternatives and Emissions Reduction Branch at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The two day conference entitled “Advancing Ozone and Climate Protection Technologies: Next Steps,” included technical presentations, panel discussions, and a trade show. At the conference, dozens of booths from chemical manufacturers and manufacturers of refrigerators, air conditioners, and thermal insulating foam showcased a wide range of market-ready alternatives to HFCs. Some even dispensed more tangible evidence of the inevitability of a shift away from HFCs – ice cream chilled in a freezer using a hydrocarbon refrigerant and beverages kept cold in vending machine using carbon dioxide as a refrigerant
The Bangkok conference was sponsored by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and The Alliance for Responsible Atmospheric Policy (Alliance) with the support of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) and the European Commission.
The Montreal Protocol is already responsible for the global phase-out of 97% of the consumption and production of nearly 100 ozone depleting substances and has set the stratospheric ozone layer on the path to mid-century recovery, while providing critical climate mitigation as well.
The proposal to phase down HFCs was first submitted by the Federated States of Micronesia, a collection of low lying Pacific island. A similar amendment was proposed by the US, Mexico, and Canada. Opposition from Brazil, India, and China has slowed progress.
While there is considerable optimism that formal negotiations on the HFC amendments will be launched this year at next week’s Working Group meeting or the November Meeting of the Parties, it ultimately depends upon the willingness of Brazil, India, and China to listen to their poorer island neighbors.