Paris - COP21

The COP21 meeting which recently took place in Paris France from November 30th, 2015 to December 11th, 2015, was the 21st meeting of the Countries of Participation (COP) under the UN Framework on Climate Change (UNFCCC).  The main objective of this annual meeting is to review the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development adopted at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992.  Significant meetings of the COP were COP3 when the Kyoto Protocol was adopted and COP11 when the Montreal Action Plan was produced. Both of which have had a significant impact on the residential, commercial and industrial refrigeration industry with regard to ozone depleting substances.

The specific aim of the COP21 meeting was to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate change worldwide. The ultimate goal is to limit the rise of global temperatures to at or below 2 °C by the end of the century by reducing carbon emmisions. 2 °C has been determined to be the point beyond which dangerous climate change could threaten life on Earth.

After much discussion, it was agreed, by the 196 nations in attendance including the United States, to adopt what has been termed as the “Paris Agreement”. Under this agreement the United States, along with 195 other countries, have agreed to develop a carbon reduction plan with Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) which are basically emission reduction targets.  Counter to the original goal of the COP21 meeting, this agreement is not legally binding, however, by terms of the agreement, INDCs must be reviewed by each country every 5 years to ensure transparency and accountability.  The issue of legality relates back to the 2009 climate summit in Copenhagen where observers say the attempt to impose legally binding targets on countries at that point was one of the reasons why the talks failed to produce a consensus outcome.

Under the “Paris Agreement” The United States has agreed to reduce its greenhouse gas emmissions by 26-28% below its 2005 level by 2025. You can review the United State's INDC here.

Another achievement of the “Paris Agreement” is what is being referred to as climate aid - rich countries helping poor countries achieve climate goals through funding and loan guarantees to help with financing carbon reduction, clean energy, and clean air initiatives.

The Paris meeting is being hailed as historic in the fact that the world, not just a few invested countries, has agreed that climate change is a huge issue that needs to be addressed.

Most analysts agree that limiting the rise of global temperature is a large task and we might have promised more than we can deliver from a political and social standpoint, nevertheless, the United States has produced an INDC and will be reviewing its goals under the “Paris Agreement” moving forward every 5 years.

What does this mean for the industrial refrigeration community?

The phase out of ozone depleting chemicals and stricter regulations on chemicals with global warming potential has forced the refrigeration industry to rethink the viability of certain refrigerants for future use in domestic, commercial, and industrial systems.

The Montreal Protocol saw us reducing, with the eventual phase out, of CFCs and HCFCs (HCFCs by 2015 in the United States) which were mainly replaced by HFCs, to a world where we are seeing that HFCs are being reduced and/or phased out completely. The EU has already experienced massive mandatory phase outs of certain HFCs.

According to Lowell Randell, Director of Government Relations at IIAR, parties to the Montreal Protocol met in Dubai in November 2015, prior to the Paris meeting, to discuss the potential expansion of the Montreal Protocol to include HFCs.  At the conclusion of the meeting the countries announced an agreement to include HFCs as a part of the protocol.  The so-called “Dubai Pathway” will be the focus of several meetings in 2016, with the goal of completion by the end of next year.

A technical paper entitled “Refrigerant and Regulatory Developments: Changes Impacting the Opportunities for Natural Refrigerants” presented at the 2015 IIAR Industrial Refrigeration Conference & Exhibition by Rajan Rajendran, Ph.D. of Emerson Climate Technologies states that CFCs and HCFCs have already been phased out in Europe and that hydrocarbons like isobutene and propane have already become quite common in domestic refrigeration.  According to the paper, CO2 as a refrigerant in stationary refrigeration systems has grown in usage and acceptance in Europe and Australia and is making inroads in North America and elsewhere and that as the use of HFCs declines in industrial applications we will see the same sort of trends in architecture and fluids as we have seen in commercial applications.

Just recently we witnessed the removal of certain approved HFC refrigerants by the EPA from their list of approved refrigerants. See IIAR's SNAP Action Update

As the United States agrees to abide by stricter climate regulations globally we will see more national restrictions like these take place.

We have only to look toward the EU to understand the challenges they have faced and the changes they are making with regard to the refrigeration industry. They have already had to adhere to stricter phase down and phase out laws. Overall as we see the regulatory climate become much tougher, the industry will need to transition accordingly. The momentum is happening and we have already seen more cross-over with Ammonia, CO2and other natural refrigerants in both commercial and industrial applications.

Ammonia with its GWP of 0 is the perfect refrigerant to lead the pack in this time of transition and CO2 comes in as a close second with a GWP of 1. Dave Rule, President of IIAR says, "Applying these two natural refrigerants in the commercial and industrial sectors makes good sense for the future of the refrigeration industry."

As Lowell Randell states, “The efforts in Dubai and Paris are further indications that the international community is coming together to reduce carbon emissions and phase down the use of substances such as HFCs.  These activities have the potential of generating more interest in natural refrigerants such as ammonia as facilities look for alternatives and transition away from HFCs in the future.”

Member's may access Rajan Rajendran's paper by signing in to the IIAR website.  Go to Members Only, eLibrary, Technical Papers Archives.  

Useful Terminology

CFC Refrigerant: ChloroFluoroCarbon - the refrigerant is comprised of Chlorine, Fluorine, and Carbon. Example: R11, 12,13,113,114, and 115.

HCFC Refrigerant: HydroChloroFluoroCarbon - the refrigerant is comprised of Hydrogen, Chlorine, Fluorine, and Carbon. Example: R22.

HFC Refrigerant: HydroFluoroCarbon - the refrigerant is comprised of Hydrogen, Fluorine, and Carbon Example: R134a.