UNEP webinar shows how natural refrigerants are integral to sustainable public procurement

By Robert Davidson, Jul 31, 2015, 16:20 4 minute reading

In a webinar held on 30 July by UNEP promoting sustainable public procurement, the need for developing countries to leapfrog HFCs in the process of phasing-out HCFCs was outlined as well as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency giving an update on what is being done to promote natural refrigerants, in particular in the U.S. Department of Defense.

Mr. Farid Yaker, Programme Officer of UNEP's Division of Technology, Industry and Economics, introduced listeners to the concept of sustainable public procurement explaining that: “sustainable procurement is a process whereby organisations meet their needs for goods, services, works and utilities in a way that achieves value for money on a whole life basis – including the cost to society, the economy and the environment.” Yaker explained, “the higher initial price of the greener product is more than compensated by the much lower usage and disposal costs for ‘green’ products.”

Yaker noted that this concept had rightfully gained traction and it was one of the six programmes that has been included in the 10-Year Framework of Sustainable Consumption and Production Patterns (10YFP) programme that was adopted at the Rio +20 Conference in June 2012.

The need to leapfrog HFCs: The rise in HFC emissions could undo the good of the Montreal Protocol

Atul Bagai, Senior Regional Cordinator for UNEP's Compliance Assistance Programme in Asia and the Pacific, discussed how the role of sustainable procurement in respect to the implications of the Montreal Protocol. Bagai gave a brief introduction to the Montreal Protocol, extoling its virtues noting that there was a complete CFC phase out in 2010 and that it was agreed to accelerate HCFC phase-out by 2030 and that we will see the first results of how this phase-out is going with a 10% reduction from 2013 freeze targets expected this year.

However, Bagai was steadfast in preventing complacency to set in as he noted “uncontrolled HFC emissions growth will take up a share of 7-19% of CO2 emissions in 2050, based on Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports”. He symbolised what this increase in HFC emissions would mean: “Therefore, uncontrolled HFC growth is expected to offset the climate benefits achieved by the Montreal Protocol”.

Bagai pointed out that we cannot take one step forward and two steps back and that HFCs must be leap-frogged in the phase-out of HCFCs. The way that Bagai suggested to do this is through the following platforms:

  • Integrated standards and eco-labels highlighting these products have zero GWP
  • Replacing HVAC&R systems with climate friendly and energy efficient alternatives through utility drive programmes
  • Promoting ozone and climate friendly alternative technologies to HFCs through green procurement policies in implementing a multi-level environmental agreement

On this last bullet point, Bagai explained how UNEP is looking to promote public procurement of climate friendly alternatives to HFCs in Asia Pacific. A conference organised under the UNEP-USEPA grant partnership was held in Korea in March 2015. The conference looked to foster a dialogue between public procurers and ozone agencies in Asia Pacific to build capacity to integrate alternatives to high-GWP HFCs into public procurement activities.

The conference found that ozone-depleting substances (ODS) are still used commonly in public and private buildings and that most countries in Asia Pacific do not have a tracking system for ODS emissions. The information gap is also evident, Bagai explained: “Most ozone and procurement officers do not have information on HFC and greenhouse gas emissions”. Bagai said to counteract this, there needs to be more political will to promote sustainable procurement and that there is also a need to encourage eco-labelling for environmentally friendly and energy efficient technologies, which would facilitate the public sector to easily identify and procure green products.

How the U.S. is addressing its responsibilities

Drusilla Hufford, Director of Stratospheric Protection Division in the Office of Atmospheric Programs, of the U.S. EPA gave an overview of what the U.S. is doing to reduce HFC emisisons. Hufford started off by noting the areas of use for ODS and HFCs, flagging up:

  • Motor vehicle air conditioning
  • Building and room air conditioning 
  • Large retail and commercial scale food cooling 
  • Refrigerators

Hufford used the example of the U.S. Department of Defense as a case study as to how the U.S. is taking on the responsibility. Hufford highlighted the following areas where the Department of Dense is implementing change:

  • Absorption Chillers at co-generation sites
  • Monitoring of the use of CO2 in mobile air conditioning for tactical vehicles
  • The use of a CO2 transcritical and NH3/CO2 cascade system in some commissaries.

In addition to active research and implemented installations, Hufford explained how the EPA is revamping their website to be more user-friendly to assist consumers in knowing what is refrigerants are acceptable in certain applications.


By Robert Davidson

Jul 31, 2015, 16:20

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