UN warns coolant gases could put carbon progress at risk

Achim Steiner, executive director of UNEP

Achim Steiner, executive director of UNEP, called for the Kyoto and Montreal protocols to work together. (Source: Ryan Brown/UN Photo)

By RTCC staff

The gases in fridges and air conditioning units could have the equivalent warming effect of adding nine billion tonnes of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere by 2050, a UN Environment Programme report released today has warned.

The study calls for industry to find alternatives to Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) to reduce the impact they have on global warming.

HFCs have no effect on the Ozone layer and are a common replacement for CFCs, which were phased out under the Montreal Protocol and Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), an early substitute for CFCs.

“The more than 20 year-old international effort to save the ozone layer ranks among the most successful examples of cooperation and collaboration among nations,” said Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director.

“A new challenge is rapidly emerging as countries move ahead on HCFCs and that is HFCs. While these ‘replacements for the replacement’ chemicals cause near zero damage to the ozone layer, they are powerful greenhouse gases in their own right.”

According to the IPCC, HFCs in the atmosphere for around 100 years would have the warming effect of 400-12,000 times the volume of carbon dioxide, depending on the exact type of HFC.

“The good news is that alternatives exist alongside technological solutions. There is enough compelling evidence to begin moving away from the most powerful HFCs today,” he added.

The increase in HFCs, has been linked to the proliferation of air conditioners and refrigerators in developing countries.

With UNFCCC climate change talks beginning in Durban next week, Steiner called for collaboration between the two UN secretariats and their most famous outputs, the Kyoto and Montreal Protocols.

“Cooperative action between these treaties may be the key to fast action on HFCs, assisting to maintain momentum on recovering the ozone layer while simultaneously reducing risks of accelerated climate change,” said Steiner.

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