New decisions on environmental issues

Environmental issues will certainly continue to be the main driver of evolution in the refrigeration sector in the coming decades. Newsletter No. 37 mentioned new orientations decided during the latest United Nations conferences on the ozone layer and climate change. New decisions have been taken in the European Union (EU) and in the USA which will reinforce these orientations: - The EU confirmed its decisions regarding HCFCs: prohibition of the use of new HCFCs in any equipment after the end of 2009, ban on the refilling of equipment (including with recycled fluids) with HCFCs after the end of 2014. It confirmed its target of a 20% reduction in its greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 compared to 1990 levels and its target of a 30% reduction provided that other countries make efforts (comparable cuts from other developed countries, significant efforts from emerging countries). It also announced that part of the Copenhagen agreement (to be discussed during the next UN Conference on Climate Change, which will be held in Copenhagen, Denmark, in December 2009) should include "an international emission reduction arrangement for HFC emissions". Several European countries have more stringent targets: Austria (for numerous refrigeration applications) and Denmark have already banned HFCs. Germany is considering subsidizing of new commercial refrigeration installations running on natural refrigerants (CO2, NH3, hydrocarbons) and subsidizing at a higher level (25% of the net investment cost) existing installations using natural refrigerants than those using fluorinated refrigerants (15%). - In the USA, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed in January 2009 two rules restricting the availability and use of HCFCs: the first rule proposes to set HCFC production and import limits for the period 2010-2014 in order to meet the 2010 phasedown caps under the Montreal Protocol (see Newsletter No. 33); the second rule would ban by January 1, 2010 the sale or distribution of pre-charged refrigeration products and components manufactured after January 1, 2010, containing HCFC-22, HCFC-142b or blends containing them. By January 1, 2020, production and import of all HCFCs will be banned, as required by the Montreal Protocol. The American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 discussion draft considers a gradual phase-down of HFC - including HFC-134a - and HFO (hydrofluoroolefin) consumption - including HFO-1234yf - between 2012 (96% of baseline consumption) and 2038 (15%). Of course, these new proposals need to be adopted by the government. There could be several approaches: measures on containment of fluids, such as the F-gas Regulation in Europe; progressive bans for certain applications where leakage is high (e.g mobile air conditioning…) and for refrigerants with high GWPs, general bans…. - Other developed countries such as Australia intend to accelerate the phase-out of HCFCs earlier than stipulated by the Montreal Protocol and to reduce the use of HFCs (through higher prices) in the near future: see Newsletter No. 37. 2009 will be a key year for the future of refrigerants and for energy efficiency. We must bear in mind that 80% of the environmental impact of refrigeration and air conditioning is due to energy consumption. New rules on energy labelling are being prepared, for example in the European Union (see below). The economic crisis will not reduce the addressing of environmental issues in our sector.