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EIA calls for ban of HFCs in split systems

The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) has renewed its call for hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) to be banned in domestic air conditioners, with the claim that a switch to hydrocarbons could prevent harmful emissions equal to 1,400 coal-fired power stations running for a year.

New research commissioned by the EIA found that making the change could avoid 5.6 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent (GTCO2e) emissions by 2050.

“We have been long-standing advocates of getting rid of HFCs and other similar super-polluting refrigerant gases – collectively known as fluorinated gases, or F-gases – and moving to natural refrigerants in the fight against climate change,” says EIA Climate Campaigner Sophie Geoghegan.

“We’re pleased that this new research spells out the very real and vital savings that can be made from taking such an approach.”

The EIA commissioned environmental research institution Öko Recherche to investigate the climate benefits of switching split system AC units from hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) to propane, a hydrocarbon liquefied petroleum gas also used as fuel for heating and cooking.

“Most HFCs have global warming potentials (GWPs) in the thousands,” the EIA says, “while propane has a GWP of three, meaning it has a significantly smaller climate impact.

“As global temperatures rise, the demand for cooling equipment is soaring. Alarmingly, the number of domestic air-con units is predicted to triple by 2050 – and unless measures are taken to halt the use of damaging HFCs, our collective demand for cooling will only make global warming worse.

With the European Union’s F-Gas Regulation up for review, the EIA is calling for a ban on HFCs in single-split AC units.

“We are also working to secure an amendment to the current rules to allow for a greater volume of propane … to be used in residential air-con,” the EIA says. “If we are successful, it will enable more climate-friendly and efficient cooling appliances to come to the marketplace, and will build confidence in flammable refrigerants for installers and consumers.”

This revised standard is currently at committee draft stage and is due to be finalised in late 2021.

Meanwhile, hydrocarbons have been in the headlines in Australia as well, with the One Nation party calling for a change to the laws in Queensland to facilitate the use of hydrocarbons in air conditioning units.

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