Coca Cola and Red Bull lead US charge to cut HFCs

Obama administration says latest voluntary moves to cut potent warming gases are proof it is taking tough climate action

PIc: Leo Hidalgo/Flickr

PIc: Leo Hidalgo/Flickr

By Ed King

Leading US retailers and chemical firms have agreed to accelerate efforts to phase out potent climate warming gases.

Coca-Cola, Target Corporation and Red Bull are among the companies that have agreed to adopt new voluntary commitments to cut hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, which are commonly used in refridgeration.

The measures were announced after a White House meeting of the Council on Environmental Quality, an advisory body comprised of state, business and civil society stakeholders.

“Given the mandate of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, we expect American companies will be world leaders in tackling HFCs,” said Mark W. Roberts, Senior Counsel for the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA).

“EIA looks forward to the announcements made by companies today. Transitioning to low-global warming alternatives will allow the United States to lead in the establishment of the next generation of refrigeration and air-conditioning equipment.”


The coalition of businesses represents around 95% of US HFC use. Many businesses with European operations have already implemented changes as a result of EU legislation.

Scientists say that HFCs could result in 100 to 200 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent emissions by 2050, around 12% of the projected greenhouse gas levels, resulting in an extra 0.5C warming.

In some parts of the world they are the fastest growing greenhouse gas, increasing around 10-15% per year.

US officials say the latest set of pledges from companies are equivalent to taking 15 million cars off the road.

“These are some of the strongest greenhouse gases in the atmosphere,” a White House spokesperson told the Washington Post.

Cutting HFCs has been a major climate policy objective of the Obama administration.

Mexico and Canada have already agreed to work with Washington on plans to curb their use in North America, while a separate work programme with China has also been established.

Further announcements are expected at a UN climate summit scheduled to take place on September 23, involving over 160 senior officials and heads of state.


In an article earlier this week, former India environment minister Jairam Ramesh said the Delhi government should also take steps to curb the country’s high HFC emissions.

India’s strong refrigerator and air-conditioner markets make it one of the world’s largest users of the gases, which have a warming potential thousands of times higher than CO2.

Delhi diplomats say the country does not have cost-effective alternatives to HFCs, and has rejected proposals to tackle them under the UN’s Montreal Protocol, arguing it is an ozone not a climate treaty.

Ramesh said these excuses were “pedantic”, accusing the country of “needless intransigence and obduracy”.

“India should summon the courage and the vision to state categorically that it is very much in favour of transiting directly from the use of HCFCs to refrigerants that have low global warming potential, thereby obviating the need to go through the HFC route as an intervening step,” he said.

“India should not be seen to the ‘last man standing’, a role it has played so well, so often in international forums to its own disadvantage.”

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