UNEP recognises there is no simple solution to HFC issues
Despite concerns about the high global-warming potential of HFCs, a report by the United Nations Environment Programme has warned that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ refrigerant solution. The report expresses concern that the high GWP of HFCs that have been the replacement of choice for ozone-depleting substances may offset the significant benefits achieved by the Montreal Protocol.
In 2010 alone, the phasing out of ozone-depleting substances under the Montreal Protocol reduced emissions by 10 Gt of CO2 equivalent — about five times greater than the annual emissions reduction target of the Kyoto Protocol’s first commitment period.
EPEE, the European Partnership for Energy & the Environment, supports UNEP’s conclusion hat further action is needed to reduce the climate impact of heating and cooling equipment. Director general Andrea Voigt says, ‘Market growth and on-going replacement of ozone-depleting substances will lead to the growth of more products using HFCs. By 2050, over 75% of global HFC emissions will be generated by developing countries. Therefore EPEE strongly supports a global phase-down scheme for fluorinated gases.’
EPEE shares UNEP’s view that alternative refrigerants still need to over barriers such as the need for further technological developments, flammability and toxicity risks, regulations and standards that inhibit the use of alternatives, insufficient supply of components, investment costs and lack of relevant skills among technicians.
Andrea Voigt argues, ‘Industry should not be rushed into using new technologies as they may turn out to be counter-productive for energy efficiency and the climate. Moreover, it may put at risk installers and technicians if they are forced into using flammable or toxic liquids for which they may still lack sufficient skills.’