A climate working group of the United Nations Environment Programme has concluded that it will be impractical to pursue a complete phase-out of HFCs at the present time.
The group said: “It was accepted that the phase-down of HFCs might be possible but that total phase-out would not be feasible at the current stage.
The decision by the influential group, following evidence from both its scientific and technology and economic panels, is based on an acknowledgement that there are still cooling applications where there is no feasible alternative to the gases.
The working group said: “For several sectors alternatives to HFCs were already available or were being developed but for some applications alternatives were currently not feasible.”
In addition, the group concluded that carbon dioxide equivalent emissions were decreasing because of the refrigerant, and that far from the Domesday scenario predicted by some environmental groups, after 2015, “total emissions were expected to show a slight increase, owing to the extensive use and consequent emission of HFCs.”
The news been hailed as a victory for good sense by those behind the F-Gas Works campaign who have been lobbying to retain HFCs where they remain the most energy efficient and practical refrigerant (see Graeme Fox’s blog below).
The working group said that low global warming potential alternatives were available for most applications and that they should be used as much as possible. But it stressed that where alternatives were not ‘technically and economically feasible’ that ‘responsible use, careful maintenance and service and good housekeeping measures must be ensured to minimise emissions.’
The cost of bringing in alternatives was cited as one of the major issues, the working group said, as was the need to bring the R22 phase out under control before starting new phase outs.
“Concerns were expressed with regard to the affordability and availability of alternatives to HFCs, and also regarding additional costs associated with substitution. Concerns were also expressed that the speedy implementation of HCFC phase‑out must be secured before entering into new challenges to deal with HFCs.”