If you are looking for EIA UK, it's overhere.

Time to Set Smarter Industry Standards for HFC-free Technologies

This is the third installment of the EIA Climate Campaign’s blog series on ‘Navigating the Path to Climate-Friendly Cooling.’ The series will focus on the key policy and technology issues related to mitigating hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs)—super greenhouse gases used in refrigeration and air conditioning. We’ll be covering a number of topics, including the progress on state and federal regulations in the United States and the interplay between industry standards and emerging technologies, in the context of the approaching international negotiations on an HFC phase down at the Montreal Protocol. For the other posts in this series, click here and here.

By Christina Starr, EIA Climate Policy Analyst

As you may know from the previous posts in this series, most refrigerants we use today are synthetic super-greenhouse gases called hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), that are hundreds to thousands of times as damaging to the climate as carbon dioxide (CO2). A movement is underway to rid the world of HFCs and replace them with low-global warming potential (GWP) alternatives. Countries have agreed to negotiate a global HFC phase down agreement this year that could prevent 100 Gt CO2-equivalent HFC emissions by 2050 with up to an additional 100 Gt CO2 emissions through potential energy efficiency improvements. Meanwhile, in the United States, President Obama has made HFCs a key element of his climate agenda, and other regions including the European Union, have already begun the process of phasing down HFCs through their own laws.

Standards and standards-making bodies are a critical link in the chain to make proven low-GWP alternatives available for public consumption. Standards are supposed to ensure that the products we buy are safe and do not pose an unreasonable risk to human health or the environment. Yet many current standards governing low-GWP alternatives are outdated and are acting more as false barriers rather than constructive linkages to an HFC-free world.

These standards, developed by industry, not the governments, set the rules for practically every safety and quality aspect of designing, testing, and installing any product sold. This includes what kind and how much refrigerant can go in your air conditioner, fridge, supermarket, or any other type of equipment using a refrigerant. If an industry standard imposes too restrictive measures to ensure a new product is safe, the product is effectively prohibited from entering the market. Particularly in the case of natural low-GWP alternative refrigerants such as hydrocarbons, CO2, and ammonia, many standards are currently based on outdated assumptions and old technologies that are preventing their broader uptake.

To give just one example of a market barrier imposed by standards, the most widely recognized international standards body, the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), allows up to 150 grams of hydrocarbons in a domestic refrigerator and as a result, over 700 million hydrocarbon refrigerators have been sold safely around the world over the last two decades. Here in the United States, however, the market follows a domestic standard written by Underwriters Laboratories, called UL 250, which limits the amount of hydrocarbon refrigerant in a household refrigerator to just 57 grams, or one third of the amount allowed in the EU and most of the rest of the world. It is simply not feasible or cost-effective to make an energy efficient refrigerator with enough cooling capacity to cool your food using only 57 grams of hydrocarbon refrigerant. As a result, virtually none of the approximately 10 million new refrigerators purchased in the United States each year use hydrocarbons.

There are many similar examples with other types of low-GWP HFC-free equipment and other standards. Part of the problem lies in the research and technical know-how needed to change the standards to take into account new technologies that are proven safe. However, another significant challenge lies in the reality that many of the committees and panels that draft and vote on these standards are made up largely of representatives of the industries that manufacture and sell HFCs and the products that use them. Without a nudge in the right direction, these industry representatives have substantial incentive not to catalyze changes to the standards that would allow other alternatives to compete with synthetic HFCs and HFC-blends. In fact, they have a vested interest in making the process of updating these standards move as slowly as possible.

Low-GWP, HFC-free alternatives have been developed and proven for almost every refrigeration and air conditioning application where HFCs are used. We need smarter, more modern standards that will help illuminate the path toward the HFC-free world that is within our grasp, and we need them as soon as possible.

Stakeholders from around the world with a united interest in seeing broader uptake of low-GWP alternatives are beginning to step up to the plate to take this on, but much work remains. EIA welcomes this trend and looks forward to seeing progress and increased participation from this broader range of stakeholders to modernize all standards that are artificially keeping climate friendly refrigeration and air conditioning equipment from being sold as soon as possible.

We will continue to bring you information on this topic of smarter standards for an energy efficient, HFC-free world.

View all Blog Posts

Recent Blog Posts

A ‘Cool’ Way to Take Action after the Global Climate Strike
Ahead of the UN Climate Action Summit this week, millions of protestors participated in the global climate strike last Friday. The strike called on our leaders to take action on climate change as they meet in New York City. According to experts we have just 12 years to respond to climate change, to limit global temperature rise to under 2°C, and to protect life on Earth as we know it.
Racing the Clock: California to Cut HFC Emissions in Half by 2030
Racing the Clock: California Nears Final Plan to Cut HFC Emissions in Half by 2030

Recent Reports

Search, Reuse and Destroy: Initiating Global Discussion to Act on a 100 Billion Ton Climate Problem
Search, Reuse and Destroy: Initiating Global Discussion to Act on a 100 Billion Ton Climate Problem
EIA 2018 Impact Report
In 2018 the Environmental Investigation Agency continued to confront the greatest environmental threats facing the world today. The EIA team pursued, documented and exposed the activities of syndicates that threaten endangered species, damage the climate and ozone layer, and drive the trade in timber stolen from the world’s most important remaining forests.

Recent Press Releases

“Cool It” Campaign: Groups Take Aim At Walmart’s Massive Refrigerant Leakage Problem
“Cool It” Campaign: Groups Take Aim At Walmart’s Massive Refrigerant Leakage Problem
California Green Lights Incentive Program to Reduce HFCs
This week California’s legislature approved a 2019-2020 budget providing $1 million to create an incentive program for reducing emissions of fluorinated greenhouse gases, including hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). Established by the California Cooling Act (SB1013) passed last year, the program will incentivize adoption of climate-friendly refrigerant technologies, with a mandate to also consider other co-benefits such as energy efficiency and opportunities for increasing recovery, reclamation, and destruction of refrigerants at end-of-life.

Recent Videos

Blowing It
Information obtained by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) demonstrates conclusively that the use of CFC-11 in China’s rigid polyurethane (PU) foam insulation sector, in particular in the building and construction subsector, is widespread and pervasive. CFC-11 is used as a foam blowing agent for the manufacture of molded foam panels and spray foam used for insulation purposes
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.
Help us mitigate climate destroying gases
Where are HFCs used?
What are HFCs?
How to Recycle Your Fridge