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Policy makers ramp up HFC phase-out pressure

Policy makers worldwide have lined up to push for a dramatic HFC reduction in the near future.

UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon said: “Parties to the Montreal Protocol are now considering proposals to bring HFCs under the practice.

“HFCs do not deplete the ozone layer but are highly potent greenhouse gases, and their consumption has been increasing rapidly as they are being used to replace HCFCs.”

To encourage the take-up of alternative technologies Moon said: “I urge parties and industries to seize the opportunity provided by the HCFC phase-out to leapfrog HFCs wherever possible.

“The current HCFC phase-out presents countries and industries with a unique opportunity to acquire cutting-edge technologies that not only eliminate ozone-depleting compounds, but do so in a way that lowers energy costs and maximises climate benefits.”

At the same time the European Parliament has recommended a rapid phase-down of HFCs, to begin within two to three years, as well as for an accelerated phase-out of HCFC.

The phase-down echoes similar moves elsewhere. The US, Canada and Mexico jointly submitted a proposal to phase down consumption and production of HFCs under the Montreal Protocol in May.

However, a recent amendment proposal says there may not be alternatives for all HFC applications and therefore uses a gradual phase-down mechanism with a plateau, as opposed to a phase-out for both developed and developing countries.

Ray Gluckman, director at consultancy Enviros, said: “Both these documents increase the likelihood of some form of HFC phase-down being adopted.  If this occurs there will be great pressure for consumption reductions from the RAC sector.

“The small ‘tail’ of consumption allowed under the current phase-down proposals will probably be needed only for essential applications such as MDIs (metered dose inhalers – i.e. medical aerosols).

“For RAC systems and heat pumps, a phase-down will probably be achieved by a combination of greater use of natural refrigerants (CO2, ammonia and HCs) and perhaps the rapid introduction of new refrigerants such as HFOs.”

The European announcement follows a report identifying an increase of seizures of HCFCs over the past three years, with illegal consignments being intercepted in the US, Asia and Europe.

The report, jointly produced by the Environmental Investigation Agency and the United Nations Environment Programme, warns that action should be taken immediately to stop HCFC smuggling in its early stages.

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