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If nothing changes, ten air conditioners will be sold every minute over the next thirty years and most of them will emit Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), the potent greenhouse gases proliferating so fast that they’ll amount to 9-19 per cent of total carbon dioxide equivalent emissions by 2050. Cooling is also energy intensive and air conditioners and electric fans alone are responsible for ten per cent of global electricity use.
Japan’s Initiative on Life-Cycle Management of Fluorocarbons (IFL) launched in 2019 to address cooling sector challenges, including the fluorocarbons released at every stage of cooling equipment’s lifespan (when it’s built, used, repaired, and disposed of) in collaboration with the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC). Since then, the initiative has hosted workshops and seminars to spread best practices, introduced domestic laws and policies, engaged the private sector, and built technical capacity for fluorocarbon mitigation in developing countries.
“The cooling sector has improved so much since the beginning of the Montreal Protocol, both in terms of energy efficiency and the transition away from ozone-depleting refrigerants. Fortunately for the world, there is still much opportunity for additional improvement,” said Kristen Taddonio, the Senior Climate & Energy Advisor at the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development (IGSD). “With its network of experienced technical and policy leaders throughout the world, the CCAC is the best possible partner to expand HFC management best practices.”
The Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol has the potential to avoid 0.4°C of global warming by adding drastic reductions in the production and consumption of HFCs, bolstering the protocol’s phaseout of ozone depleting substances (ODS). The gases that have already been produced, however, risk leaking out of existing equipment without proper lifecycle management.
To reduce warming, the Kigali Amendment’s phasedown of high global warming potential refrigerants and chemicals must be accelerated to avoid the worst effects of climate change. Further necessary action includes increasing the energy efficiency of cooling equipment, ceasing dumping of environmentally harmful equipment, and recovering and recycling stores of fluorinated gases in existing equipment.
“Even with the full compliance of the Montreal Protocol including its Kigali Amendment, the HFCs and ODS cooling equipment emits during operation and disposal are untreated in many countries. It may cancel a significant portion of efforts implemented in other sectors to achieve global net-zero greenhouse gas emissions,” said Yurie Osawa, Deputy Director, Office of Fluorocarbons Control Policy at Japan’s Ministry of the Environment. “Japan has been eager to reduce these emissions since the 90s through regulations and programs. Accumulated knowledge and expertise would be beneficial to other countries. Given the gap we need to and can fill, the IFL is looking forward to contributing to greenhouse gas reduction globally.”
There are also huge potential savings associated with this work: it will cost countries trillions of dollars to meet the electrical needs of the proliferating inefficient cooling devices in the upcoming years.
“By focusing on efficient cooling, we can save trillions of dollars this century while saving many gigatons of greenhouse gas emissions. It’s a win-win,” said Taddonio.
The CCAC’s Cooling Hub is building off the achievements of the CCAC’s HFC Initiative, working to achieve the full climate benefits of the cooling sector and maximize the potential of the HFC phase down under the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol. It is supporting governments and industry leaders to make cooling commitments, supporting demonstration activities in developing countries, developing and sharing tools, and providing strategic guidance and advice. By 2025, the Cooling Hub will have raised high-level awareness of the cooling sector’s contribution to climate change and mobilized political support to act on that awareness, including by providing finance to help developing countries transition to a climate-safe cooling sector.
The CCAC, France, and Japan are also working to implement the landmark global agreement The Biarritz Pledge for Fast Action on Efficient Cooling which will help transform the cooling sector by increasing its energy efficiency while phasing down HFCs and phasing out ODS. This collaborative work involves developing national cooling plans, using energy performance standards and labelling, and helping countries achieve their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).
This work is exemplified by the support Vietnam is receiving through the IFL to improve its cooling sector. In December 2020, with the support of the initiative, Vietnam introduced regulation requiring producers, importers, and consumers of cooling equipment to regularly report to the government and set timelines to begin collecting, recycling, and destroying gases controlled under the Montreal Protocol, as well as equipment containing these substances.
To illustrate the potential of destroying recovered HFCs using cutting-edge incineration technology, Japan’s Ministry of the Environment funded a demonstration project to transfer technology and expertise between Japanese enterprise and its Vietnamese counterparts. The initial project is taking place in the suburbs of Hanoi and, dependent upon its success, will be scaled up across Vietnam and hopefully in other developing countries. Japan also organized training on best practices in countries across South East Asia.
Japan, the IFL, and the CCAC also organized an online side event at the 43rd session of the Open-Ended Working Group of the Montreal Protocol called “Sharing Good Practices: Addressing HFC Bank— A Need to Accelerate HFC Emissions Reduction” to help raise awareness and best practices.
Future plans for the Initiative include the planned publication of a “Resource Book for the Life Cycle Management of Fluorocarbons: Good practice portfolio for policymakers,” which will have case studies of successful policy measures from over 20 countries.
The Initiative is also planning training events and webinars for government representatives, international agencies, and the private sector to support policy development in this area.
“Given the CCAC’s strong and enriched partnership and expertise with countries, international organizations, NGOs, and experts, the IFL believes that the CCAC will help fill this gap in mainstreaming the end-of-life treatment/life cycle management of fluorocarbons by disseminating information among their partners, promoting buy-in of high-level decision-makers, and providing space for engaging more partners,” said Osawa. “Moreover, with the launch of the new Cooling Hub, which will place the life cycle management of fluorocarbons as one of its key activities, the IFL is confident the message will successfully reach the partners, facilitating deeper collaboration.”
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