On the positive side, the report praises natural refrigerants, including hydrocarbons as “tried-and-tested environmentally safer technologies available to meet today’s needs”.
HFC phase out by 2020 and incentives for natural refrigerants
Greenpeace is calling for a complete phase-out of HFCs by 2020 under a dual approach involving both the UNFCCC and the Montreal Protocol to play unique collaborative roles: the HFC phase out would be incorporated in the Copenhagen agreement, while the Montreal Protocol would limit the production and consumption of HFCs around the world.
With a rapidly increasing demand for cooling services in emerging economies, “the overriding imperative for the coming years is that developing countries have strong policy and financial incentives to leapfrog HFCs and move straight to natural refrigerant alternatives”. The environmental group maintains that the first step that will allow developing countries to leapfrog HFCs straight to natural refrigerants is for the Parties to the Montreal Protocol to mandate the Multilateral Fund to maximise the climate benefits of the accelerated HCFC phase-out by only funding HFC-free projects.
Low GWP and non-ozone damaging properties are not reason enough to support HFOs
The document takes a clear stance against the use of so-called “hydrofluoroolefins” of HFOs. Being “marketed under a different name to avoid negative connotations of HFCs”, the latest generation of supposedly climate-friendly hydrofluorocarbons would have real and dangerous environmental and health impacts. The paper lists economic, environmental, and social arguments against the use of these HFCs, but most importantly denounces the known and yet unknown risks for humans and biodiversity. “The chemical details of HFO-1234yf are shrouded in secrecy”, reads the paper. “Low GWP and non-ozone damaging properties are not reason enough to support the new generation of HFCs or ‘HFOs’. Other serious environmental and health risks potentially make them just as dangerous as their predecessors. The way the chemical industry has marketed CFCs, HCFCs and HFCs over the past 70 years should teach us to be extremely sceptical of any industry assertions regarding new products”. In this context, “Greenpeace does not support countries providing public financial support to HFOs at the expense of funding natural refrigerants development and investment”.
Hydrocarbons are a superior choice to HFO 1234yf
An additional argument against HFOs, initially intended for mobile air-conditioners (MACs), is the fact that a superior alternative already exists, namely hydrocarbons. Hydrocarbons are environmentally-friendly, more efficient, much cheaper, immediately available and already widely used in MACs in Australia and US. “Should the car industry opt for refrigerants that are flammable, then hydrocarbons are a superior choice to HFO 1234yf”.
Congratulating frontrunners and criticising laggers
The report then profiles the environmental strategies of 18 corporations that use HFCs and congratulates and/criticises corporations based on their efforts. Greenpeace congratulates for example Unilever and Pepsi for being at the forefront of using hydrocarbon technology, but also invites corporations to face up to challenges such as establishing concrete HFC phase-out deadlines. Finally, Greenpeace criticises corporations for not delivering on their commitments to transition to natural refrigerants.
Taking action: opting for hydrocarbon refrigerators and ACs
Finally, Greenpeace advises consumers to take action by making smart consumer choices:
- R600a domestic refrigerators: Consumers are advised to make sure that the type of refrigerant used in domestic refrigerators use hydrocarbon refrigerant R600a as indicated by a sign at the point of sale. Consumers should avoid R22 and R134a refrigerants.
- Hydrocarbon air-conditioners: Consumers are advised to look out for air-conditioners using natural refrigerants like R600a and R290. For example “Italian manufacturer De Longhi currently sells room air-conditioners using R290, which are 10% more energy efficient than those using R134a”.