HFC Consumption in Australia in 2013 and an Assessment of the Capacity of Industry to Transition to Nil and Lower GWP alternatives

Expert Group, 2014

Background

Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) are a group of synthetic greenhouse gases (SGGs) that are primarily used as refrigerants in refrigeration and air conditioning equipment, replacing chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs). HFCs are also used in the production of foams, as fire extinguishing agents, solvents and in aerosols, including for medical treatments. CFCs have been phased out and HCFCs are nearing phase out under the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (the Montreal Protocol).

Australia is party to the Montreal Protocol and implements its obligations through the Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas Management Act 1989 (the Act). The Act controls the import, export, manufacture, use and disposal of ozone depleting substances (ODS) and SGGs in Australia.

Internationally, emissions of SGGs are controlled by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and its Kyoto Protocol. For the last five years, proposals have been made to phase-down HFCs under the Montreal Protocol. A phase-down under the Montreal Protocol would avoid growth in HFCs in developing countries and would avoid emissions of more than 90 gigatonnes CO2-e by 2050 – equivalent to two years of total global greenhouse gas emissions. The main reasons put forward for using the Montreal Protocol are that the Montreal Protocol has the expertise to manage HFCs and has a responsibility to control HFCs as they were developed to replace CFCs and HCFCs.

The Department of the Environment engaged the Expert Group to test the Australian industry’s capacity to adapt to a phase-down of HFCs. The Expert Group’s report provides projections of Australian demand for HFCs across all the major applications to 2025. The projection is based on a stock model of all refrigeration and air conditioning equipment in the economy.

Report’s findings

The Expert Group found that there are viable lower and zero Global Warming Potential (GWP) alternatives available now or are being developed for commercial release in the near future, for the majority of uses. The report notes that there a number of significant technological changes already underway as a result of changed requirements in major international markets. For example, the European Union requires all new vehicle air conditioning to use a refrigerant gas with a GWP less than 150 by 2017. This initiative has led to a number of lower GWP alternatives being introduced to the global market and will likely lead to their use in Australia over time. The uptake of new technology can be encouraged or accelerated with a mix of incentives.

There are a small number of uses, such as refrigeration systems in small fishing vessels, where no immediate options are available. Technical work will be needed to adapt low GWP alternatives for these uses.

Despite the assessed technical capacity to meet a HFC phase down, there are industry standards, human resource and economic issues that need attention to support a transition to low GWP alternatives.

Further information