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New Report Identifies Sources of Environmental Dumping of ACs in African Countries


Low-efficiency air conditioners comprise over one third of sales in focus countries; units contain obsolete refrigerants with high global warming potential

A new report on environmental dumping, released in advance of World Refrigeration Day, finds that 35% of the room air conditioners (room ACs) sold in many of Africa’s largest countries are low efficiency units with energy efficiency ratings of less than 3.0 W/W. Environmentally Harmful Dumping of Inefficient and Obsolete Air Conditioners in Africa details the extent of the problem across ten countries in Africa, ultimately providing policymakers with a set of solutions to encourage a transition toward highly-efficient, sustainable cooling technologies. The report was authored by CLASP in collaboration with the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development.

Analysis of ten countries (Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Ghana, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, and South Africa) that account for 96% of the continent’s room AC market reveals that:

  • Of 650,000 new low efficiency ACs sold in Africa in 2018, 170,000 were imported products that would not meet the minimum energy efficiency standards in their countries of origin, and the remainder assembled using low-efficiency imported components and containing refrigerants that are powerful greenhouse gases.
  • One-quarter of the low-efficiency room ACs containing obsolete refrigerants were imported from non-African companies.
  • Three-quarters were assembled in Africa by one of three company types: local subsidiaries of non-African companies, joint ventures between smaller African assemblers and large, non- African room AC, or wholly independent African room AC assemblers, not part of a joint venture, importing components for and assembling low efficiency room ACs.

From 2005 to 2019, Africa’s market for new split room ACs grew by an estimated 14%, cumulatively*. Weak or non-existent energy efficiency policies and the lack of proactive anti-environmental dumping policies in many African countries have facilitated environmentally harmful dumping of inefficient, high-global warming potential (GWP)** air conditioner products into African markets.

The Montreal Protocol, designed to phase out numerous ozone-depleting substances, was amended in 2016 to include the phase down of substances that trap heat in the atmosphere and exacerbate global warming. As manufacturing and industrialized economies place increasingly stringent energy performance standards on room ACs sold domestically and implement refrigerant transition policies, importing African countries risk becoming even greater dumping grounds for inefficient, environmentally harmful products using obsolete refrigerants that no longer have a viable domestic market in their places of origin and soon worldwide.

"With energy demand growing across the continent, addressing environmental dumping issues would not only help countries achieve progress on their climate action goals, but would also help to ensure that African consumers gain access to affordable, high-quality appliances," said Rebecca Schloemann, lead author from CLASP.

“Inefficient ACs are being dumped into Africa where they are ‘energy vampires,’ sucking up vital energy needed to recover from the pandemic and economic slowdown. Stopping environmental dumping and switching markets to efficient and climate-friendly cooling is essential in a warming world where heat and humidity extremes may soon exceed levels suitable for human survival,” said Tad Ferris, Senior Counsel for the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development, and a lead author of the paper defining environmentally harmful product dumping.

The prevalence of low efficiency room ACs puts extra strain on governments’ and consumers’ budgets. Customers pay higher electricity bills and countries pay more for electricity generation facilities, imported fuel, and electricity transmission and distribution infrastructure. Further, environmental dumping of air conditioning products with obsolete refrigerants increases future demand for these damaging refrigerants at a time when they will be expensive or unavailable in some markets, creating incentive for illegal chemical manufacture and trade.

The report outlines a series of recommendations for policymakers to halt environmental dumping and encourage a transition to highly-efficiency, low-GWP room ACs, modeling the potential impact of policy scenarios that could reduce 2022-2030 greenhouse gas emissions by 14-20% from current levels:

  • Ratify the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol and adopt implementing policies.
  • Design and implement energy efficiency policies consistent with major countries of export.
  • Strengthen institutional arrangements.
  • Revise tariffs on room ACs to ensure compatibility with energy efficiency goals.
  • Ban the import of secondhand, including refurbished, and inefficient room ACs and publicize and enforce the ban.
  • Implement government bulk purchasing and support for buyers’ clubs.
  • Properly recycle and dispose of obsolete room ACs.
  • Elevate solutions to regional level.
  • Engage local groups profiting under current system to trade in obsolete equipment as part of the solution.

Webinar: CLASP and IGSD hosted webinar on 1 July to present the findings of this report. A video recording of the webinar is available here.

* Euromonitor 2019. Euromonitor provides reported and modeled estimates for room AC market size by country. For most countries on the African continent, Euromonitor does not have reported sales from trade sources, and instead models approximate market size using national statistics (population, number of households, etc.).

** Throughout the report, CLASP refers to the GWP of refrigerants. To align with Montreal Protocol tracking, CLASP uses IPCC AR4 100-year GWP values. See https://www.ipcc.ch/site/assets/uploads/2018/05/ar4_wg1_full_report-1.pdf