Environmental impact of room air conditioners in Europe

In a study* published in February 2011, L. Grigon-Massé et al. assess the environmental impacts of European room air conditioners (RACs) using a Life Cycle Analysis approach and analyse policy strategies to reduce these impacts.
In 2010, according to the business as usual (BAU) scenario, the electricity consumption due to air conditioners was 94 TWh, 63 of which were due to heating. This represented about 2-3% of the current electricity consumption in the 27 EU countries. This scenario forecasts a 80% increase in electricity consumption due to room air conditioners between 2010 and 2025. This does not take into account the impact of climate change which could increase the building electric consumption in Europe by 17% in 2020 and 35% in 2050. It appears that about 85% of greenhouse-gas emissions are linked to energy use for moveable systems, 75% for the cooling only air conditioner and 90% for the reversible one. The working fluid leakage accounts for 4% of the total emissions for moveable systems, 14% for the cooling only air conditioner and 7% for the reversible one. Other phases account for a very low percentage of total emissions: between 2 and 5% for the production phase, about 1-2% for the distribution phase and about 1-2% for the end-of-life phase.
The analysis also shows that a significant percentage of products sold in Europe would not comply with Japanese and Chinese legislation: 90% of the cooling-only air conditioners (in the Eurovent database) do not match Japanese Minimum Energy Performance Standards.
The implementation of Minimum Energy Performance Standards in Europe can save up to 49 TWh and 20 MtCO2eq in 2020 (a decrease of 30 and 16% respectively compared with the BAU scenario) and still be economically beneficial to the European end-user.
*L. Grignon-Massé et al., Strategies for reducing environmental impacts of room air conditioners in Europe: http://bib.rilk.com/6187/01/These_grignon_masse.pdf  pp.305-324.