We learn today that the EU has been urged to take stronger action on the HFC family of greenhouse gases by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA).
The EIA argues that firm European regulation to cuts HFCs (hydrofluorocarbons) will send a strong signal to developing countries where their use is growing, but also help create a mass market for their replacement chemicals.
HFCs were developed to replace chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) which were responsible for the hole in the ozone layer. They are thousands of times more potent than CO2 when it comes to warming the atmosphere but do have a far shorter lifespan.
HFC emissions are growing rather than reducing and by 2020, they could be 80% higher. It is estimated that the emission of HFCs is probably on a par with the aviation industry as a proportion of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. HFCs are used in air conditioning and refrigeration units. The industry is experiencing rapid growth as middle classes in developing countries emerge, and as temperate climates suffer increasingly extreme summer temperatures, expanding the air conditioning market.
Air conditioning sales in India and China are growing at 20% a year. The EU’s policy on HFCs is currently up for review and the EIA believes there is an opportunity to lead by example and begin an aggressive phase down of HFC use. Replacement chemicals already exist but face resistance from industry that would be left with the costs of any changeover. HFCs and other so-called short-lived climate forcers such as methane and soot have received increasing attention in recent years.
The US established a coalition of countries to deal with short-lived climate forcers in developing countries earlier this year. France, Germany, Italy, Denmark, Finland, Jordan, and the UK joined the Climate and Clean Air Initiative in July, bringing the total number of signed-up states to 21.
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) predicts that slashing these emissions could delay climate change by up to three decades, avoid the annual loss of more than 30 million tons of crops, and prevent 2.4 million deaths – often from soot inhalation.
As a responsible company, we welcome any progress on greener initiatives in our industry and are happy to implement new measures and introduce new technology to our product range. Air conditioning is here to stay and plays a vital role in medicine, industry and science as well as being the most efficient form of all year round heating and cooling that a home can have.