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“Cool It” Campaign: Groups Take Aim At Walmart’s Massive Refrigerant Leakage Problem

New Effort to Urge Retail Giant to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions Thousands of Times More Potent than Carbon Dioxide

Green America, the nation’s leading green economy organization, has announced a new campaign to call on Walmart, one of the world’s largest retailers, to reduce its hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) emissions. The Cool It campaign urges Walmart to release a detailed plan to phase out HFCs in all locations, monitor and repair its refrigerant leaks and practice responsible disposal. The company’s own data states that HFCs account for roughly 46 percent of the company’s total direct emissions, according to the Carbon Disclosure Project.

Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) are greenhouse gases with thousands of times the heat-trapping power of carbon dioxide. Used as refrigerants in air conditioners and refrigerators, HFCs leak into the atmosphere from faulty equipment and improper disposal. Walmart has made statements on the importance of refrigerant management in the past but has not released a concrete plan to cut those emissions.

“These potent greenhouse gases have extremely high global warming potential and need to be addressed,” said Beth Porter, Green America’s Climate Campaigns Director. “The energy equivalent of Walmart’s annual HFC emissions would power nearly every household in San Francisco. It is a glaring source of the company’s impact on the climate crisis and we are urging Walmart to take action.”

In 2013, the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) explicitly called attention to Walmart’s inaction on its refrigerant practices and HFC emissions in its report, The Dirty Dozen: How your local supermarket is killing the climate. Although Walmart released goals on cutting greenhouse gas emissions through its highly publicized initiative, Project Gigaton, which aims to “avoid one gigaton of greenhouse gases” by incentivizing its suppliers to make changes, the company does not list a public goal on direct HFC emissions despite having been aware of the issue for years. In April 2019, EIA released its Climate Friendly Supermarkets platform map to celebrate leaders on the issue (including Aldi, Whole Foods and Target) showing the actions of each company and why it makes business sense to move to climate-friendly cooling.

“In a time of acute need for climate action, Walmart, a company with a massive footprint and ample resources, continues to sleepwalk while smarter companies are rapidly adopting energy efficient HFC-free technologies,” said Avipsa Mahapatra, Climate Campaign Lead, EIA. “EIA joins Green America in once again calling upon Walmart to sever its reliance on potent super-pollutant HFCs for cooling and demonstrate that the company’s sustainability commitments are not just hollow words.”

Improved refrigerant management is identified by Project Drawdown as the number one solution to reduce greenhouse gases causing the climate crisis. The EPA reports that one quarter of refrigerants used at a typical store leaks out every year.

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