• HVAC
  • Greenhouse Gas Emissions
  • Paris Climate Agreement
  • Climate Action

Refrigerant Management Offers Opportunities for Differentiation and Impact in HVACR

Sasha Wedekind
Oct 22, 2019

Turbine

Global momentum is building to reduce the environmental impact from harmful refrigerants related to cooling systems. Twenty-six countries have committed to adopting national cooling plans as part of the 2019 climate week. These plans aim to support growing demand for air conditioning worldwide while reducing environmental impact through energy efficiency and refrigerant management.

Pushing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions close to zero requires the combination of multiple decarbonization strategies. Refrigerants offer an especially appealing opportunity for climate change mitigation. Implementation of the Kigali Amendment to phase out hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) would result in avoiding 0.5°C of warming, a large step toward warming below the 2°C goal set by the Paris Agreement. Air conditioning and refrigerant manufacturers can be a key part of this climate mitigation story.

Why Refrigerant Management?

Refrigerants with high global warming potential (GWP) are ubiquitous in residential, commercial, and industrial buildings, and are used primarily for air conditioning and refrigeration purposes. GWP is an estimate of the negative environmental impact. For example, the R-404A refrigerant widely used in supermarkets has a GWP of 3,922, which means it traps 3,922 times as much heat in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide does over a 100-year period. Refrigerant leakage contributes to most GHG emissions associated with refrigerant use.

According to the Project Drawdown, refrigerant management is the best opportunity to reduce GHG emissions worldwide. Over 30 years, containing 87% of refrigerants likely to be released could avoid emissions equivalent to 89.7 gigatons of carbon dioxide. Phasing out HFCs per the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol could avoid additional emissions equivalent to 25 to 78 gigatons of carbon dioxide.

Market Leaders Set the Pace

Air conditioning, refrigeration, and refrigerant manufacturers have key roles to play in refrigerant management. These companies are well-positioned to replace high GWP refrigerants with alternatives in air conditioning and refrigeration systems. Additionally, they can support leak monitoring and prevention and refrigerant recovery and destruction through training and services, particularly in regions of the world with growing demand for air conditioning.  

Multiple market players are already leading the way in transitioning from high GWP refrigerants to HFCs with lower GWP, hydrofluoro olefins, blends, and natural refrigerants. By spearheading sustainable refrigerants efforts, these companies are future-proofing their products and responding to a change in expectations around corporate sustainability. As customers and stakeholders expect sustainability commitments beyond energy efficiency, these companies are positioning their brands to lead in the future. Read more about how refrigerant management is becoming a differentiator in the HVACR industry Navigant Research's recent report, Sustainable Refrigerants Becoming a Differentiator in HVACR Markets.