A new study led by the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) shows that transitioning to high-efficiency cooling can double the climate mitigation effects of the HFC phase-down under the Kigali Amendment.
The Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, which entered into force in 2019, aims to phase down the consumption of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), used extensively as refrigerants. If successful, it will see more than an 80 per cent reduction in HFC consumption by 2047.
This is especially important for direct emissions from HVAC&R equipment. Many HFCs are potent greenhouse gases, with a global warming potential thousands of times greater than CO2.
But according to the authors of the new study, there are also many opportunities to improve energy efficiency in cooling technologies – and therefore reduce indirect emissions – under a well-managed HFC phase-down.
Although the Kigali Amendment does not set out explicit energy-efficiency targets, it does include an article, agreed to by the parties to the Montreal Protocol, to improve the energy efficiency of cooling equipment in parallel with the switch from HFCs to climate-friendly refrigerants.
“We found that if technical energy efficiency improvements are fully implemented, the resulting electricity savings could exceed 20 per cent of future global electricity consumption,” says study co-author and senior IIASA researcher Lena Höglund-Isaksson, “while the corresponding figure for economic energy efficiency improvements would be about 15 per cent.”
IIASA researcher Pallav Purohit, who led the study, says that in addition to energy efficiency improvements from technical adjustments of the cooling equipment, there is also a small potential for energy efficiency improvement from the transition of high-GWP into low-GWP alternatives for given cooling equipment.
The researchers say that the combined effect of the HFC phase-down, the improvement of energy efficiency of stationary cooling technologies, and future changes in the electricity generation fuel mix would prevent between 411 and 631 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent of greenhouse gas emissions between 2018 and 2100. This would make a significant contribution towards keeping the global temperature rise below 2°C.