Replacing the replacement

A rise in the use of “ozone-friendly” HFCs (Hydrofluorocarbon) has prompted experts to voice concerns that the potent greenhouse gases could be a problem in the future. A recent UN report states that HFCs could account for up to 20% of emissions and hamper efforts to curb climate change.

HFCs are widely used in fridges and air conditioning units, replacing Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and  hydrofluorochlorocarbons (HCFCs) that damage the Earth’s ozone layer. They are a popular choice by refrigeration manufacturers because they are are deemed to be a “like-for-like” replacement substance for CFCs and HCFCs, which are banned, or being phased out, under the Montreal Protocol on substances that deplete the ozone layer.

The replacement substances – HFCs  act as greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Achim Steiner, UNEP executive director, recently said that “While these ‘replacement for replacement’ chemicals cause near zero damage to the ozone layer, they are powerful greenhouse gases in their own right.

However it’s not all bad news for HFCs. The reports states that some HFCs have a lesser impact on the climate and that “Their differing ability is mostly [a result of] differences in their atmospheric lifetimes, which determine how much they accumulate in the atmosphere.” The report added that investment incentives and technical training programmes would help accelerate the introduction of alternative substances. The twenty-third meeting of the parties on the Montreal Protocol continues in Bali,Indonesia

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