Refrigeration is a significant and growing source of greenhouse gases. This is because the dominant technology - hydro fluorocarbons (HFC) - is 1400 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas. HFC’s represent 1.5% of total warming potential today and are expected to increase to 6-9% of total GHG by 2050 unless action is taken.
The Consumer Goods Forum’s Board has agreed on a resolution and action plan in November 2010: The companies recognize the major and increasing contribution to total greenhouse gas emissions from HFCs and derivative chemical refrigerants. The companies are taking action to mobilize resources within their respective businesses to begin phasing out HFC refrigerants by 2015 and replace them with non-HFC refrigerants (natural refrigerant alternatives) where these are legally allowed and available for new purchases of point-of-sale units and large refrigeration installations.
A second Refrigeration Summit was held on in September 2011 in Atlanta. At the Summit were 110 attendees, representing equipment suppliers, retailers, other CPG companies, customers, and NGO partners. A total of 45 companies from Asia, North America, Europe and Latin America were in attendance.
Three common challenges were identified by both working groups, and associated recommendations for actions in the areas of:
- Public Policy and Regulatory - to initiate work to address public policy and regulatory barriers, in particular in the United States. This should include: US/EPA SNAP approvals, ASHRAE 15, UL 1995 and broader public policy engagement on the future of the Montreal Protocol post-Kyoto Protocol. CO2 refrigeration for Beverage Vending Machines in the USA has been SNAP approved by the United States Environmental Protection Agency in Summer 2012.
- Performance Metrics and Methodology - facilitate the collection of performance metrics and methodologies to create “one source of truth” on HFC-free technologies.
- Driving Scale - dedicate a section of the CGF Sustainability website to show individual company progress with a view to building greater confidence with the supplier base that CGF companies were actually moving forward on this agenda. This will help build the scale that will address most of the cost and other challenges necessary for this transition to occur.
To address these challenges, a 3rd Refrigeration Summit will be organised on 5th June 2013 in London, UK. The summit will focus on the retail sector where the market is developing more slowly compared with manufacturers. The objectives of the summit include:
- To bring retailers and suppliers together to discuss the barriers and solutions to a faster and geographically wider uptake of natural refrigeration systems;
- To help retailers that haven’t yet explored or invested in natural refrigeration systems to realise the benefits of doing so and that it is a viable technology, including through a tour of systems working in stores;
- To give suppliers the confidence that the retail sector is interested in this technology, ultimately to help drive a strong global and competitive supply base.
The CGF has captured the commitments and good practices on Refrigeration from its Board Members in this document.
Natural refrigerants are naturally occurring substances that can be used as cooling agents (heat transfer medium) in refrigerators and air conditioners. They don't harm the ozone layer and have no or negligible climate impact, but may pose operational safety risks if not properly managed.
- Ammonia (R-717), used in industrial refrigeration plants for more than 130 years, is deemed to be environment-friendly, economical, and energy-efficient
- The natural refrigerant carbon dioxide CO2 (R-744) has a similarly long tradition in refrigeration technology
- Non-halogenated hydrocarbons (HC) such as propane and iso-butane
CFCs - These are substances containing carbon, fluorine and chlorine chemicals (CFC). CFC refrigerants, such as the once popular R-12, have the highest ozone depleting potential (rating 1) and are a greenhouse gas (GHG). They are now banned from production within all countries covered by the Montreal Protocol.
HCFCs - These are substances containing hydrogen, carbon, fluorine and chlorine (HCFC) chemicals. The HCFC refrigerant R-22 was the most widely used refrigerant for light commercial air conditioning, refrigerators and freezers until concerns over ozone depletion were raised. The HCFCs have a rating of ozone -depletion potential (rating 0.05) lower than CFCs (rating 1) and are therefore classified as “transitional substitutes” during the time it takes to commercialize new ozone-safe alternatives and replacements.
HFCs - These are substances containing hydrogen, fluorine and carbon chemicals. The HFC gases are used extensively in every day refrigeration and air conditioning systems (RAC systems). HFCs have no ozone depletion potential, but these chemically based synthetic refrigerants are powerful greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming if released into the atmosphere. Depending on the exact type of HFC, they can be a 20,000 times more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.