Refrigerators, air conditioners cited as climate threats

2011-11-22 10:10

A group of chemicals increasingly used in products such as refrigerators and air conditioners, while ozone-friendly, is a significant contributor to climate change, a UN report said today.

The chemicals, known as hydroflurocarbons (HFCs), could be responsible for emissions equivalent to between 3.5 and 8.8 gigatons of carbon dioxide worldwide, according to the report released by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

That is comparable to the total current annual emissions from transport, the report said.

The original chemicals used in air conditioners and refrigerators, known as CFCs, were phased out globally last year. Their first-generation replacements, HCFCs, are also being phased out.

“However a new challenge is rapidly emerging as countries move ahead of HCFCs and that is HFCs,” UNEP executive director Achim Steiner said.

“While these ‘replacements for the replacement’ chemicals cause near zero damage to the ozone layer, they are powerful greenhouse gases,” he said.

But technological solutions and alternatives exist, according to the report titled A Critical Link in Protecting Climate and the Ozone Layer.

HFCs are already controlled under the UN’s Framework Convention for Combating Climate Change and its Kyoto Protocol, along with CO2, methane and other greenhouse gases.

Efforts to protect the ozone layer are carried out under the earlier Montreal Protocol.

“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,” Steiner said.

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