The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), a nonprofit based in Washington DC and London, today released a report that says China and India are expected to release huge amounts of HFC-23 into the atmosphere, causing global greenhouse gas emissions to skyrocket. HFC-23, a by-product in the production of a chemical (HCFC-22) primarily used in air conditioning and refrigeration, is 14,800 times more damaging to the climate than carbon dioxide, the group says.
According to the report, EIA investigators have discovered that many Chinese and Indian facilities, despite having destruction technology readily available, are releasing or threatening to emit the byproduct unless they receive additional financing to dispose of the chemicals. Plants that produce HCFC-22 in other developing countries could also do the same. If this happens, it would cause the release of more than 2 billion metric tons of CO2e into the atmosphere by 2020, more than the global fleet of cars emit each year.
Alexander von Bismarck, EIA’s executive director, says almost all of the US’ HFC-23 emissions come from two facilities owned by Honeywell and Dupont and has urged the two companies to “lead by example” and stop emitting the byproduct. He says US and China are moving in the right direction on HFCs, but must take immediate action to control the GHG and “give life” to their HFCs agreement.
Two weeks ago, President Barack Obama and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping agreed to find ways to cut the production and use of HFCs. The US and China will work together, and with other countries, to phase down the use of HFCs, while continuing to include the potent greenhouse gas within the scope of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the White House said.
HFC-23 has been the focus for the first emission reduction projects funded through the United Nation’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). Under the UN program, incinerators for HFC-23 are installed at 19 refrigerant facilities, mostly in China and India but also in South Korea, Argentina and Mexico, to help control the GHG.
Destruction of HFC-23 is cheap; however, refrigerant companies have made billions of dollars in windfall profits from the sale of carbon credits, maximized through manipulation of HCFC-22 and HFC-23 production levels. In response, the European Emissions Trading Scheme – the world’s largest carbon market – banned the trade of HFC-23 credits as of May 1. Other carbon markets have followed suit, resulting in the collapse of the HFC-23 credit market.