On 20 October an international conference on natural refrigerants held in Brussels drew to a close. The two days event discussed the question of what would be needed in a concerted effort of policy, industry, and education providers to bring existing and new technologies faster to market in developed and more importantly developing countries.
Meeting in Europe’s political powerhouse on 19-20 October, politicians from the UN level, the World Bank, and from national governments met with industry experts and interested parties in the field of natural refrigerants to discuss the prospects of CO2, ammonia, and hydrocarbons as a replacement for ozone-depleting and global warming substances currently used to different extents in developed and developing nations. Non-governmental organisations, including the Environmental Investigation Agency EIA, and Greenpeace, added their view about a phase-out of hydrofluorocarbons, taking a clear stance in favour of natural refrigerants proven to work reliably in a wide variety of applications. A new position paper against the latest proposed generation of HFCs and for natural refrigerants issued by Greenpeace International this month was presented for the first time to a wider audience at the conference that brought together participants from Europe, North and South America, and Asia.
Recommendation: Join forces
The clear aim of Atmosphere 2009 – to start concrete discussions about how to use existing policy frameworks and funding programmes to promote natural refrigerants as a viable alternative in industrialised and emerging economies – was reached, with discussions during the general policy and finance sessions, as well as during the specialised CO2, ammonia, and hydrocarbon workshops evolving around the question of how to use Clean Development Mechanisms, World Bank funding programmes, UN educational programmes, e-learning modules, and national incentive schemes to drive change and move towards a faster replacement of F-gases.
Participants largely agreed that efforts by the industry would need to be better coordinated and communicated to make decision makers and the industry aware of the huge potential of natural refrigerants. Atmosphere 2009 was acknowledged as a potential starting point for more concerted action in that field, based on collecting necessary data to provide best practice examples for developing nations. One tool under which to develop concrete action plans was mentioned by David Kanter, F-Gases Consultant for Greenpeace International, who called for a wider participation of companies worldwide in “The Natural Voice” – a positive statement open to associations, research institutes and corporations, which was presented during an informal group discussion on the Sunday before the official conference start.
Recommendation: Training & Education
The lack of education and training available to developing countries was mentioned throughout the speech of Rajendra Shende, UNEP’s Head OzonAction branch as a major barrier that needs to be overcome if natural refrigerants are meant to penetrate developed and, more importantly, developing countries. Several interventions throughout the two days event stressed the same message, as missing knowledge transfer from countries with already existing applications will need to be adapted to fit the needs of emerging economies.
Industry experts were calling on international and national bodies to provide funding for safety training to be exported to developing countries. Training and education would hence be the door opener for successfully employing CO2 and other natural refrigerants in less experienced industry sectors and world regions. The need to design systems to be more maintenance-friendly would play a major part in this effort.
Recommendation: Technology & Standards
Besides a further enhancement of technology, such as in the field of compressors and low charge systems, participants called for a standardisation of regulation within Europe and between the EU and the US, as well envisaging a universal legislation as the final objective. Inappropriate safety standards misapplied to different applications would need to be reviewed, as well as standards and legislation revised on an annual basis to allow new technologies and developments to penetrate the market faster.
That the technology is successfully and reliably working was demonstrated by two applications operating live on site: The German Federal Environment Agency presented the world’s first passenger vehicle using a CO2 air conditioning system. UN experts and industry representatives took a vivid interest in the design and safety of the system and car, used on a daily basis by the head of the UBA and other governmental representatives while showing an excellent cooling performance and energy efficiency results.
A second example was presented by GTZ that showed a hydrocarbons-based A/C system made in China to a wider public for the first time. After Atmosphere 2009, where the HC unit was operating live on site, it will be shipped to Egypt where national governments meet to discuss possible amendments to the Montreal Protocol early November.