Keep cool without warming the planet

  • Living
  • Sunday, 28 Sep 2014

Big firms agree to cut use of heat-trapping coolants.

THE Obama administration has reached agreements with a range of major companies to voluntarily phase out a class of chemicals, used in refrigerators and air conditioners, and seen as contributors to global warming.

The chemicals, called hydrofluorocarbons or HFCs, became the popular alternative to the refrigerant, Freon, banned in the 1990s as a danger to the planet’s ozone layer. The HFCs do not harm the Earth’s ozone layer, but the gases are considered a major force in climate change – up to 10,000 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

Without any action by industry and government, HFC emissions are expected to nearly double by 2020 and triple by 2030. According to the administration, the steps announced last week are designed to reduce HFCs, especially R-134a, causing a drop in greenhouse gases by 1.5% from 2010 levels. That is the equivalent of removing about 15 million vehicles from US highways.

Companies including the chemical manufacturer DuPont and some of the biggest users of refrigerants such as Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Red Bull have voluntarily agreed to take steps to cut their use of HFCs. Also included are important retailers such as Target and Kroger.

The announced corporate commitments cover the gamut from where the chemicals are produced to how they have an impact on consumers’ actions.

Also among those agreeing to take steps to cut HFCs is the Alliance for Responsible Atmospheric Policy, a coalition of chemical manufacturers representing 95% of US production of HFCs.

Its members will reduce global HFC greenhouse gas contribution by 80% by 2050.

The Air Conditioning Heating and Refrigeration Institute, an industry association representing 90% of US air-conditioning manufacturing and 70% of the global industry, has announced that its member companies will commit US$5bil (RM16bil) on research and development to commercialise technologies with low global warming potential over the next 10 years.

The Obama administration has been seeking since 2010 to phase out production of HFCs, both through voluntary agreements as well as proposed new amendments to the Montreal Protocol, the treaty that outlawed Freon.

The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed two new rules to smooth the transition to climate-friendly alternatives to HFCs, including the expansion of the list of acceptable alternatives.

The United States and China agreed last year to work together to phase down the consumption and production of HFCs, and G20 leaders have backed the reduction. – Los Angeles Times/McClatchy Tribune Information Services

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