COP19 side events raise awareness on natural refrigerant alternatives

By Ginta Vanaga, Nov 20, 2013, 17:51 4 minute reading

With several countries going back on their climate protection promises and emissions reduction targets, attempts to keep the global temperature rise below the critical 2°C threshold are seriously under threat. While the official climate talks in Warsaw so far have failed to make substantial progress, COP19 side events have highlighted that replacing HFCs with readily available natural refrigerant technology represents a low hanging fruit in tackling climate change.

Discussions on climate change mitigation efforts through the reduction of emissions of gases other than CO2, namely climate warming hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), have quietly made their way onto the agenda of the 19th Conference of the Parties (COP19) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which is underway in Warsaw, Poland. While several countries during the plenary sessions have repeatedly called for measures to be taken to address HFC emissions under the Montreal Protocol Framework, countries such as India and Saudi Arabia are continuously blocking progress towards an international agreement on eliminating HFCs.

In the meantime, several COP19 side events of have pointed out that fluorinated gases (f-gases) are low-hanging fruits when it comes to climate change mitigation, with several suitable (safe, energy-efficient, cheap) low GWP alternatives available for most f-gas applications.

European approach to addressing HFCs

The COP19 side event organised by the European Commission on 13 November 2013, focused on the national measures that can be taken to address HFCs, while highlighting the viability of HFC replacement technologies that would underpin a global agreement on HFCs.

Arno Kaschl from the European Commission in his presentation, titled “EU action on HFCs and other fluorinated gases”, provided an update on the ongoing review of the EU F-Gas Regulation. He explained that in order for the EU to reach its climate objective and reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by 80-95% by 2050, compared to the 1990 levels, emissions from f-gases also have to be reduced.

Lessons from national level action to address HFCs

Mikkel Aaman Sørensen from the Danish Environmental Protection Agency presented Denmark as a “case study” of a country that has addressed HFCs at the national level, and succeeded in reducing emissions while leading the development of an HFC-free industry. At the time when Denmark was considering national measures on HFCs some of the arguments where quite similar to those often heard today: it was said that Denmark would become the “land of warm beer and melted butter”. Yet “Denmark has lead the way, and it can be done everywhere”, said Mr Sørensen who also advised policy makers to keep “cool”, and for the refrigeration industry to take responsibility, and for end users to look ahead.

Another approach aimed at decreasing the use of HFCs has been taken by the Netherlands. As Gudi Alkemade from the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment explained in her presentation, the instruments used range from voluntary agreements and recovery requirements before end-of-life, to the promotion of alternatives through financial incentives, such as tax refund schemes, R&D subsidies, demonstration projects and feasibility studies.

HFC-free solutions are available

Alexandra Maratou from the market development company shecco provided an overview of the different heating and cooling applications that can be covered by the so-called “natural 5” refrigerants. As emphasised by Maratou, there have been success stories where the HFC-free solutions have become a standard technology, as is the case for domestic refrigeration worldwide.

In Europe today, another success story in the making is commercial refrigeration, as more and more supermarkets are choosing HFC-free refrigeration systems. According to shecco’s latest market research, the number of stores using a specific CO2 transcritical technology has more than doubled in the past 2 years, and now accounts for more than 2,800 stores. “It might not come as a surprise that the top ranking countries in terms of highest number of CO2 supermarket stores are those countries where domestic HFC measures are in place”, said Maratou.

Directly addressing concerns as to whether HFC-free alternatives are also viable in developing countries, Jonas Bleckmann from GIZ presented concrete projects involving GIZ, relating to the application of low-GWP and energy-efficient natural refrigerants in developing countries. Over the past 18 years a total of 240 projects in 40 countries has saved over 10,000 ODP tons and about 100 million tons CO2eq.

Calls for global action on HFCs

A separate COP19 side event organised by environmental NGO EIA (Environmental Investigation Agency) also raised awareness that international action on HFCs under the Montreal Protocol would be a quick, effective, and relatively straightforward initiative that would mitigate at least 100 billion tonnes (100 gigatonnes) of CO2-equivalent by 2050.

About COP19 - Warsaw Climate Change Conference

The Warsaw Climate Change Conference organised by the United Nations and held in Poland from 11 to 22 November 2013, is the 19th annual session of the Conference of Parties (COP19) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) signed in 1992. The conference delegates representing the UNFCCC signatories are continuing international negotiations towards a global climate agreement to come in force after the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2020.


By Ginta Vanaga

Nov 20, 2013, 17:51

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