By Jim Taylor, Editor MACS ACtion Magazine
As the 17th Conference of the Parties to the UN’s Framework Convention for Combating Climate Change and its Kyoto Protocol takes place in Durban, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) released a report highlighting progress in removing ozone damaging chemicals and the effects of their replacements.
Measures to protect the ozone layer are carried out under the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. The chemicals, collectively known as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), are popular as replacements for the more damaging CFCs and HCFCs used previously as refrigerants, foam sources and cleaning fluids.
But the recent report projects that by 2050 HFCs could be responsible for emissions equivalent to 3.5 to 8.8 gigatonnes (Gt) of carbon dioxide (Gt CO2eq), comparable to total current annual emissions from transport.
Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, said: “The more than 20 year-old international effort to save the ozone layer ranks among the most successful examples of cooperation and collaboration among nations.-the original chemicals, known as CFCs, were phased-out globally in 2010.
“However a new challenge is rapidly emerging as countries move ahead on CFCs and HCFCs and that is HFCs. While these replacement chemicals cause near zero damage to the ozone layer, they are powerful greenhouse gases in their own right.”
He added that the good news is that alternatives exist along with other technological solutions. “There is enough compelling evidence to begin moving away from the most powerful HFCs today,” he added.
Key Findings from the HFC report
● The contribution of HFCs to climate forcing is currently less than one per cent of all greenhouse gases, but levels of HFCs are rising as they replace the older chemicals. HFC-134a, the most popular type, has increased in the atmosphere by about 10 per cent per year since 2006.
● The consumption of HFCs is projected to exceed the peak consumption levels in the 1980s of the old, now fully phased-out CFCs. This is primarily due to rising demand in emerging economies and a global population now above seven billion.
● The phase-out and phase-down of CFCs and HCFCs since the late 1980s has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by around 8 Gt C02eq annually while reducing damage to the ozone layer. This has been a tremendous plus for global climate protection.
However, without action, the increasing use of HFCs could add annual greenhouse gas emissions of between 3.5 and 8.8 Gt C02 eq by 2050, and thus undo the large climate benefits scored by the phase out of CFCs and HCFCs since the late 1980s.
● Alternative methods and processes include improved building design that reduces or avoids the need for air conditioners to fibre rather than foam insulation materials.
● Non-HFC substances are already commercially available and provide alternatives from ammonia to dimethyl ether for use in foams, refrigeration and fire protection systems.
● Climate-friendly HFCs have shorter life-times in the atmosphere of months rather than years. Some of these are being introduced such as HFC-1234ze in foams and HFC-1234yf for mobile air-conditioners.
The report points out that, with further technical developments backed by standards, investment incentives and training for technicians and workers, the introduction of alternatives to climate-damaging HFCs could be accelerated and fast-tracked.
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The 32nd annual Mobile Air Conditioning Society (MACS) Worldwide Convention and Trade Show will take place January 18-20, 2012 at the Rio All Suite Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, NV.