A fast phase-down of factory-made hydrofluorocarbons could avoid the equivalent of as much as 200 billion metric tons of CO2 by 2050, according to a study published in Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics.
The HFC reductions could be achieved quickly and inexpensively with a leap-frogging strategy where countries currently phasing-out hydroclorofluorocarbon, or HCFCs, under the Montreal Protocol leap frog over HFCs and use already available climate-friendly alternatives, according to Growth of climate change commitments from HFC banks and emissions.
The US, Mexico and Canada filed a proposed amendment to the Montreal Amendment last week to phase down HFCs. A similar amendment is expected this week from the Federated States of Micronesia.
Alternatives already exist to replace climate-damaging HFCs for most industry sectors, including natural refrigerants such as CO2, and hydrocarbons, and many more are in the development pipeline. Many of these alternatives have comparable or better energy efficiency than the gases that they are replacing, providing additional climate benefits from reduced energy use, and cost savings to consumers. Traditionally, the re-engineering that accompanies the switch to new alternatives has produced improvements in energy efficiency of air conditioners and refrigeration of 30 percent to 60 percent.
According to authors Guus Velders, Susan Solomon, and John Daniel, who hail from various environmental sciences-focused governmental and academic institutions, if HFC production were to be phased out in 2020, not only could about 91–146 GtCO2e of cumulative emission be avoided from 2020 to 2050, but an additional bank of about 39–64 GtCO2e could also be avoided in 2050.
Banks include chemicals contained in existing refrigeration and air conditioning equipment, chemical stockpiles, foams and other products, which are slowly released into the atmosphere over a decade or more. For comparison annual CO2 emissions in 2050 are projected to be between 12 and 75 Gt per year, depending on the success with various mitigation strategies, the report says.
In March, the European Parliament passed a phase-down of the use of HFCs, or fluorinated gases (F-gases).
The F-Gas Regulation will cap the amount of HFCs which can be placed on the European market, gradually reducing over time the amount to 21 percent by 2030. Their use currently accounts for about 2 percent of European emissions.