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EIA reflects on 10 years of HFC campaigning following Kigali Amendment

By Maggie Dewane, EIA Press and Communications Officer

Ten years ago, the Environmental Investigation Agency issued its first report on hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) – a class of manmade gases that are hundreds to thousands of times more damaging to the climate than carbon dioxide. Turning Up the Heat was groundbreaking in its findings and recommendations.

“While good progress has been made to address both ozone depletion and climate change, these two issues have generally been treated as separate problems with separate solutions…If the Montreal Protocol continues on its present course, HCFC [hydrochlorofluorocarbons] and HFC emissions in 2015 are predicted to have over twice the impact on the climate than the required greenhouse gas reductions under the Kyoto Protocol.”
-Turning Up the Heat, 2006

In October 2016, the Montreal Protocol, often hailed as the world's most successful environmental treaty due to its success in committing the global community to stop using ozone depleting substances nearly 30 years ago, agreed to a global phasedown of HFCs. This deal will avoid more than 70 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent emissions by 2050 – allowing us a fighting chance to avoid half a degree of global warming. However, the job isn’t finished. Implementation is what will guarantee the delivery of this climate win in reality. EIA will be watching countries’ progress throughout the phasedown, and will continue to provide recommendation and insight for successful transitions to climate friendly alternatives.

A Look Back


EIA has undertaken groundbreaking investigations into the illegal trade in ozone depleting substances (ODS) and has been closely involved in international ozone and climate negotiations for more than a decade.

2006 – EIA was a principle backer and supporter of an accelerated HCFC phase out and produced its first report on the topic, Turning Up the Heat.

2008 – EIA proposed an HFC phase out to the Montreal Protocol, presenting a Declaration for Action to the Meeting of the Parties (MOP) in Doha, Qatar. The United States used this declaration to propose workshops and discussion to explore the feasibility of an HFC phase down and the state of alternatives.

2009 – Formal proposals were submitted by Micronesia and the United States to amend the Montreal Protocol for an HFC phase down.

2012-2013 – EIA investigators discovered Chinese and Indian facilities of leaking HFC-23 gases, despite having destruction technology available, as well as funding from the UN Clean Development Mechanism to capture and destroy the gas. The findings were released in EIA’s groundbreaking report, The Two Billion Tonne Climate Bomb.


2013 – EIA released The Dirty Dozen, a report exposing some of the largest supermarket retailers in the United States of being some of the largest contributors of HFC emissions, which are used most commonly in refrigeration and air conditioning systems.

2014 – China announced it would eliminate 280 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent emissions of HFC-23. This monumental announcement came in direct response to The Two Billion Tonne Climate Bomb, which exposed Chinese factories of venting HFC-23 despite funding from the UN Clean Development Mechanism to captures and destroy these super greenhouse gases.


2015 – EIA cohosted workshops bridging A2 (developed) and A5 (developing) positions on finance and strengthening the Multi-Lateral Fund for an HFC phase down regime. The workshops reported and presented on widespread availability of alternative technologies.

2015Beyond the Dirty Dozen, a follow up to The Dirty Dozen, revealed that despite readily available climate-friendly alternatives, shockingly few supermarket chains are replacing leaking refrigeration systems or using HFC free systems in new stores.

2015 – At the 27th Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol, all 197 parties agreed to reach consensus on the Dubai Pathway to achieve an amendment to the Protocol to phase down HFCs in 2016. Throughout the year, EIA facilitated discussions on how to structure and finance a global agreement with regard to all parties, playing the role of a bridge between developed and developing countries.

2016India announced that its chemical industry must collect and destroy emissions of the most potent greenhouse gas, HFC-23, beginning immediately. EIA first exposed the HFC-23 crisis ten years ago, and carried out undercover investigations into HFC-23 venting in China and India in 2012 and 2013.

2016 – EIA was the only NGO to expose the state of obsolete safety standards acting as barriers to HFC-free technology and work on changing them.

2016 – World leaders secured a Kigali Amendment to phase down HFCs at 28th Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol.

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Recent Blog Posts

Can I be HFC-free? A Quest for Climate-friendly Cooling
08/10/2020
Supermarkets in particular have enormous refrigeration systems that extend past the display cases to back room chillers, refrigerated trucks, cold warehouses and so on. With such large systems, supermarkets are among the largest corporate offenders of HFC use, with thousands of tons of these chemicals throughout their cold chain. Yet out of nearly 40,000 supermarkets in the U.S., barely 1% are known to have transitioned to HFC-free systems; our Supermarket Scorecard shows that action and change throughout the industry is needed. These large companies have a greater climate footprint than you or me, and thus a greater responsibility to transition to climate-friendly alternatives.
Finding the Promise in Compromise: EIA Proposal to Jumpstart California HFC Reclaim
07/27/2020
Last week EIA participated in California’s Air Resources Board (ARB) 6th workshop on proposed regulations to reduce emissions of super pollutant hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) used in cooling. The state’s rigorous process for proposing new regulations on HFC refrigerants has been ongoing for several years now and is in the final stretch. Opportunities for stakeholder engagement have been abundant and ARB has invited input from industry along the way. They even aligned with an industry proposed 2023 deadline for transitioning new air conditioning equipment to refrigerants with a global warming potential (GWP) less than 750.

Recent Reports

The Risk of Ozone-Depletion Persists - Comments to EPA
10/15/2020
EIA submitted comments to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regarding the draft risk assessments of methylene chloride, carbon tetrachloride, and other priority chemicals undergoing risk evaluations under the Amended Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).
EIA Briefing on the IEC Standards Proposal for Air Conditioning
10/08/2020
With global stock of household air conditioners (ACs) expected to triple by 2050, continued use of HFCs in ACs is fueling the climate crisis.

Recent Press Releases

100,000+ Consumers Say Walmart Should Not Put Off Curbing Climate-Harming Refrigerants for 20 Years
09/21/2020
New Announcement Waiting Until 2040 to Phase Out HFCs Leaves Walmart Way Behind Competitors – Including Aldi, Target, and Whole Foods – Who Already Have Taken Action
Unlocking Kigali Amendment Climate Benefits
08/17/2020
A new safety standard proposed by an International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) working group is vital to maximizing emission reductions from a global phase-down of super pollutant hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs)
What are the HFC-free Technologies?
Widespread adoption of HFC-free technologies is cost-effective, energy efficient, and climate-friendly. Read EIA’s report Putting the Freeze on HFCs for hundreds of examples of HFC-free technologies available and in use today.
A Global HFC Phase-down
The October 2016 Montreal Protocol meeting in Kigali, Rwanda yielded a global agreement to phase down HFCs. Now countries must ratify and implement the Kigali Amendment! Read and share EIA's briefing on this great opportunity and obligation to avert climate catastrophe.
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