Australian Government announces intention to phase-down HFCs
On 11 August 2015 the Australian Government announced Australia would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26-28 per cent on 2005 levels by 2030.
Included in this announcement was an intention to fast track work in Australia to ‘reduce domestic HFC (hydrofluorocarbon) emissions by 85 per cent by 2036, in-line with the most ambitious phasedown proposals under the Montreal Protocol’.
HFCs are generally potent synthetic greenhouse gases. They are commonly used in Australia in refrigeration and air conditioning and fire protection equipment, medical aerosols, foam and as solvents. Common HFC refrigerants are R134a, R410A and R404A.
A HFC phase-down will progressively reduce the quantity of HFCs that can be imported into Australia each year. A phase-down would be gradual so that existing equipment is not retired prematurely and sufficient time is available to introduce new technology into Australia.
There are two ways a phase-down can be implemented in Australia. Currently discussions are being held internationally to include a HFC phase-down under the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. The phase-down would use the same mechanism and approach that successfully phased out CFCs in Australia in 1994 and 99.5 per cent of HCFCs by 2016.
A global phase-down of HFCs under the Montreal Protocol is the Australian Government’s preferred option. The Government has committed that “Australia will show international leadership and encourage all countries to agree to a global HFC phasedown under the Montreal Protocol”. A global agreement provides long term certainty for business, sends an investment signal to global gas and equipment manufacturers and puts all countries on a level playing field.
There are now four phase-down proposals being considered by the Montreal Protocol, with most seeking an 85 per cent phase-down by 2036 for developed countries, with developing countries having additional time. Currently all developed countries support a phase-down, and a significant number of developing countries also support a phase-down including island developing states and Africa as a group. Negotiations will resume in Dubai in November 2015.
Australia could also introduce a phase-down domestically ahead of international action. Other major trading partners have recently implemented legislation to phase-down HFC use. From 1 January 2015 the European Union has implemented a HFC phase-down of 79 per cent by 2030. The United States will ban certain uses of certain HFCs in motor vehicle air conditioning, retail food refrigeration and vending machines, aerosols, and foam blowing, through the Environment Protection Agency’s Significant New Alternatives Program.
Options for a phase-down of HFCs and other initiatives to reduce HFC emissions in Australia are being developed through the review of the Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas legislation. Options have been developed in response to public submissions and through consultation with industry. The options paper will available for public consultation in late September or early October 2015. Comments received on the options paper will help to inform the Government in making its final decision in early 2016.
Further details of Australia’s post 2020 greenhouse gas emissions reduction target and the review of the ozone legislation can be found at:
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