Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Fifty years ago, a window in my bedroom had a glass eye

Image copyright EPA Image caption EPA has asked manufacturers to phase out the HFCs by 2030

The Environmental Protection Agency has moved to phase out a chemical that is harmful to the ozone layer.

The American body has asked manufacturers to phase out the HFCs by 2030, unless their devices can emit no more than 0.5 tonnes of the gases a year.

In 2016, nearly 90% of HFCs worldwide were refrigerators, air conditioners and air ventilation systems.

American researchers say that HFCs account for around 22% of all the global ozone hole’s hole size, and it will not get smaller with current trends.

Flue gas also contributes to about 20% of the ozone hole but the ozone depletion is mostly caused by volcanic activity.

Changing consumer behaviour is therefore important for mitigating the ozone hole.

The EPA’s announcement coincides with the Climate Action Network’s first Global Ozone Monitor, which measures the planet’s current environmental conditions.

Our ozone hole shows steady development, despite the recent overshoot of global temperature targets

Micky Thompson, head of Climate, Ozone and Energy Policy for WWF International, describes the size of the hole as “alarming” and “not at all what the world should be asking for”.

However, he says a low-impact strategy could do some good.

“Some options include introducing energy efficiency standards into refrigerators and air conditioners, which could end up saving a lot of money in the long run,” he told the BBC.

The HFC phase-out announcement could also fuel consumer action.

Wyatt Logan, who has helped with carbon pricing around the world for WWF, says that phase-outs of HFCs should set a trend that will then create further pressure on chemical and material companies.

Image copyright EPA Image caption HFCs are a chemical used to make air conditioners more energy efficient

“I expect more to join the F1 campaign, which is about depleting this chlorofluorocarbon and getting the world back to “HFC-free” by 2020,” he told the BBC.

Switching to a HFC-free supply chain could mean huge savings. A refrigerator set for an initial lifespan of 10 years is estimated to be around 10 tonnes in carbon emissions; 20 years down the line the life of the same one is 6 tonnes, that’s 40% less in carbon emissions.

In the case of air conditioners, the savings could be more dramatic.

Currently one in five air conditioners in the US are HFCs-free but according to the IEA they remain a much higher percentage elsewhere in the world.

Image copyright AFP Image caption Mygovov’s Alexandra Smogorova shows how the elements in a wood warp cool an air conditioner

“That shows that there is a tremendous opportunity for investors to have HFC-free supply chains for their construction and renovation projects,” said Mr Logan.

Increasing demand for HFC-free products is therefore likely to benefit businesses both at home and abroad.

“Your communities can also benefit from the upgrade and switch,” adds Mr Logan.

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