The ‘Beyond HFC' Movement in Europe

October 4, 2010
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Contractors and wholesalers will do well to keep at least one ear and eye tuned into developments in Europe when it comes to the future of HFCs. It was movements in Europe that eventually lead to the phaseout of CFCs and then HCFCs in North America. And while the North America market talks about the possibility of a phase-down in production of HFCs sometime in the distant future, the activities in Europe are more stepped up.

It was an especially busy summer for an organization called BeyondHFCs, which bills itself as “a campaign fighting for the global phaseout of HFCs and promoting the use of natural refrigerants such as CO2, hydrocarbons and ammonia in refrigeration, heating and cooling equipment.”

This summer the organization added two more members, bringing supporters to 10. It described its goal as “putting pressure on stakeholders to phaseout HFCs.”

In North America, even strongest advocates for reduced use of HFCs usually use the term “phase-down” rather than “phaseout” and suggest such a phase-down can be long term, in line with acceptable alternatives. However, Beyond HFCs said, “We voice our message for an immediate ban on F-gases and their replacement with natural refrigerants.”

The latest to join BeyondHFCs were Noé21 and SENS International. Noé21 is described as an independent association founded in 2003 and based in Geneva, Switzerland, whose mission is “to identify, evaluate, and promote solutions to climate change, with a constructive approach.”

Cutting greenhouse gas emissions from sectors such as motorized transport, commercial flights, agriculture, or heating requires multiple behavior changes for millions, billions across the globe,” said Noé21 president Philippe de Rougemont. “Compared to the difficulties met by our climate campaign in those sectors, the prospect of phasing out HFCs from the refrigerating and cooling industry engages only one economic sector and doesn’t require behavior changes. Last but not least, natural refrigerants are readily available alternatives already present in every use where HFCs are still in use today.”

Said Christianna Papazahariou, head of the campaign BeyondHFCs, said of her organization and Noé21, “Both our campaigns fight against climate change with concrete proposals at hand. By joining forces, we keep the momentum and try to reach even more supporters. BeyondHFCs and Noé21’s mission will be to explain to our audience the immense but yet barely understood potential of emissions savings in the refrigeration, heating, and cooling sector that can be tapped into by phasing out HFCs - without sacrificing either convenience or performance.”

Noé21 is the French acronym for New Economic Orientation for the 21st Century. It is a member of the European Office of Environmental Bureau and Climate Action Network Europe C-E. Noé21 is accredited to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The other organization to join BeyondHFCs, SENS International, is described as “an independent, nonprofit foundation based in Switzerland, engaged in climate protection by recycling.”

Janine van Stiphout from SENS International explained that “The organization aims for a double engagement regarding the past and the future of F-gases. We are committed to disposing old F-gases of waste cooling appliances around the world in an eco-friendly way to reduce global emissions. By joining the BeyondHFCs campaign, we become advocates for the phaseout of F-gases and the alternative use of natural refrigerants to get a bigger response from the public.”

SENS International launched the Swiss Climate Protection Initiative SCPI and is committed at the European level to the Waste of Electronic and Electrical Equipment forum for the recycling of old electrical appliances. The foundation is building recycling plants for waste CFC-containing cooling appliances in emerging markets as well.

“SENS International’s core objective of climate protection and innovation fit perfectly with the agenda of BeyondHFCs,” said Papazahariou. “Our organizations are tackling the same problem but from different angles. The more angles we cover, the more powerful our common approach becomes.

“Climate change is happening and people are looking for readily available solutions. This is where BeyondHFCs and its supporters come in. We do not just advocate the phaseout of HFCs, we propose solutions that have proven their efficiency and reliability, namely heating and cooling appliances using CO2, ammonia, or hydrocarbons as refrigerants.”

ADVOCACY ISSUES

With its advocacy of CO2, ammonia, and hydrocarbons, BeyondHFCs does not appear as supportive of HFO refrigerants, which are also currently under development for use in automotive and stationary refrigeration as long-term alternatives for HFCs.

In one of its newsletters that came out during the summer, BeyondHFCs drew attention to a discussion in the German parliament over the use of HFO-1234yf in automotive air conditioners. When a European Union phase-down of the use of HFC-134a in automotive was ordered, auto manufacturers debated using CO2 or HFO-1234yf. Most European countries opted for the HFOs, but Germany initially said it would go with CO2 before changing its mind and switching to the HFOs.

BeyondHFCs appears to want to keep some sort of controversy alive in that regard. In an Aug. 12 newsletter, the organization said the “parliamentary group DIE LINKE asked the German government to clarify its stand on the new synthetic refrigerant for car air conditioning systems (HFO-1234yf) that is advanced by the chemical industry as environmentally friendly although it is everything but.”

BeyondHFCs then talked to a member of the German parliament, Karin Binder, about the issue. Binder was critical of the shifting position of the government in regards to the refrigerant of choice for automotive and said she had some concerns over the safety of HFOs.

At this point, she said, there should be some efforts made to have some sort of “labeling of health and environmental hazards due to the refrigerant car air conditioning.”

But on a more positive note, she also said Germans would be well to focus even more on pubic transportation and bicycling to address environmental concerns.

For more information, go to www.beyondhfcs.com.

Publication date: 10/04/2010

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