Banning the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) – super greenhouse gases used in refrigeration – in supermarkets would be one of the cheapest and most effective ways of reducing greenhouse gases in Europe.

Speaking at the shecco ATMOsphere conference in Brussels, the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) called on European Union member states to push for strong and ambitious measures in the current review of its F-Gas Regulation governing HFCs.

It’s time to act. We know that banning HFCs from new commercial refrigeration equipment is not only possible but could be a boost for European industry. At the same time, the alternative technologies are demonstrating energy efficiency gains too, providing a double win for the climate,” said EIA Senior Campaigner Clare Perry.

Commercial refrigeration represents a significant proportion of HFC emissions, as the HFC chemicals are potent greenhouse gases which regularly leak from large refrigeration equipment.

Replacement technologies primarily relying on carbon dioxide and hydrocarbons are increasingly cost-effective, and upfront costs are expected to fall further as production volumes are increased.

We have seen a few slightly hysterical comments from the chemical industry about how much moving away from their HFC products would cost – they are simply trying to protect their profits, nothing more,” said Perry.

Supermarket shelves (PD)Indeed, change is already happening. EIA's latest survey of the supermarket sector – Chilling Facts V – revealed that supermarket chains across the EU, and particularly in the UK, were moving away from HFCs towards natural refrigerants, and reaping benefits in the process.

There was a very clear message at the ATMOsphere conference from both retailers and suppliers and that is that they are already successfully moving away from HFCs – they plan to continue the roll-out of climate-friendly refrigeration but what they are looking for is a clear legislative signal with concrete timelines from the F-Gas Regulation,” added Perry.

EIA is calling on the European Member States to support measures to introduce a tight cap on the amount of HFCs which can be put on the market, and to ban their use in all areas where safe, energy-efficient alternatives are available, like commercial refrigeration.

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