Legislation Updates

Government eyes ban on high-GWP air conditioners

The Ozone and Climate Protection Section of the Australian Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment is seeking industry input on a proposal to limit the import and manufacture of small air conditioning units using high global warming potential (GWP) refrigerants.

The approach would ban the import and manufacture of small air conditioning units using refrigerants with a GWP greater than 750. The rule would apply to non-ducted units including split systems, window/wall-mounted units and portable air conditioners with a refrigerant charge up to 2.6kg. This would effectively ban the import and manufacture of small air conditioners using the refrigerant R410A, which has a GWP of 2,088. Equipment already in Australia would not be affected.

Given that most new equipment in this category has already switched to R32, which has a GWP of 675, the approach is not expected to increase costs to manufacturers or consumers, nor significantly impact consumer choice.

According to the Cold Hard Facts 2020 report, units using R32 made up 85 per cent of imports in the split system category in 2019, with the remainder using refrigerant R410A or a very small number using an alternative refrigerant. Preliminary analysis of 2020 import data shows R32 making up over 50 per cent of the imports of small air conditioning units that have charge sizes less than 800g (mostly portable air conditioners and window/wall units). The ban would support the HFC phase-down by closing the door on equipment using old-generation HFCs.

Until now, the phase-down has been applied to bulk gas only. But there are provisions in Australia’s Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas Management legislation that restrict imports and manufacture, where a particular equipment category is slow in moving to lower-GWP refrigerants and may cause higher than expected or necessary demand for HFCs for servicing in the future.

Before going ahead with the plan, the department is consulting users of small air conditioners, as well as manufacturers, importers, technicians and other stakeholders. This includes the specifics of the limits, as well as the timing of the proposed implementation.

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