Repair the Ozone Hole with Climate Friendly Refrigerants

Repair the Ozone Hole with Climate Friendly Refrigerants

Refrigerants, Naturally! brings together four high-profile private companies – The Coca-Cola Company, McDonald’s, Unilever, and PepsiCo – and two international environmental organizations – Greenpeace and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) – to combat climate change and ozone layer depletion by developing natural refrigeration technologies that are safe, reliable, affordable, and energy efficient. Meanwhile, a Chilling Facts report shows that 239 stores in the UK are now using climate-friendly refrigeration, up from just 14 two years ago.

We saw it on a BBC documentary. We hear that so called safe gases to help reduce the hole in the ozone are in fact more damaging than CO2 for the atmosphere. We came up with two recent articles on this. One from the UK and one from the UK, including information of what some companies are doing to avoid the dangers to the atmosphere of refrigerant gases.

Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) UK (29 March 2011)


SUPERMARKETS in the UK are making significant strides to counter their impact on global warming – but the nation’s second biggest chain, Asda, has been sternly criticised for apparently turning its back on green commitments.

The new survey Chilling Facts III has found that 239 stores in the UK are now using climate-friendly refrigeration, up from just 14 two years ago.

However, Asda declined to participate in this year’s study and slumped to the bottom end of the league table, casting grave doubts over the sincerity of its 2007 public pledge to move away from using HFCs (hydroflurocarbons), which have a global warming impact many thousands of times worse than carbon dioxide (CO2).

The survey by the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) quizzed supermarkets on the global warming impacts of their refrigeration for warehouses, transportation and stores. For the first time this year, it also included air conditioning systems as an issue, many of which use HFCs despite viable alternatives.

The alarming results of the first survey, published in 2009, showed that as much as one-third of a supermarket’s carbon footprint came from refrigeration gases.

In the aftermath, several supermarket chains started to tackle the issue. The number of stores running on climate-friendly refrigeration increased from 14 in the first year to 46 last year, and to 239 in this year’s survey.

Furthermore, the judges are delighted to see that some retailers have pledged to drop HFCs altogether in a specific time-frame. And the leaders – Waitrose, Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Marks & Spencer – have said all new equipment will be HFC-free, showing the transition is both technically feasible and commercially viable.

There were also significant reductions in leakage of cooling gases, an important aspect of reducing the climate change impact of refrigeration. And companies were doing a lot more to monitor and maintain equipment, as well as to train engineers.

Ranking the supermarkets by performance revealed Waitrose is still at the top of the table, with Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Marks & Spencer close behind; Morrisons, Co-operative Group and Lidl are mid-field, while laggards Iceland, Asda and Aldi trail at the bottom.

Asda’s poor showing is worrying, considering the scale of its operation in the UK and the fact that its US parent Walmart is trumpeting its sustainability policies.

“We are very unhappy that Asda has not kept up with its original commitments to stop using HFCs, and disappointed that it refused to participate in the survey this year,” said EIA senior campaigner Fionnuala Walravens.

“It’s not unreasonable to ponder whether this was perhaps to hide the fact it has made little progress on this issue and deems it a low priority.

“As one of the UK’s biggest retailers, it is unacceptable for Asda to ignore such an important issue. It should be lambasted for what appears to be a major and unjustifiable U-turn on its previous climate commitments.”

Air conditioning in stores has also received little attention to date, with a heavy reliance on both HFCs and even HCFCs (hydrochlorofluorocarbons); HCFCs have a high global warming impact, damage the ozone layer and will be banned from December 2014.

EIA’s Chilling Facts campaign is being supported by Julia Hailes, sustainability consultant and author of nine books, including The New Green Consumer Guide.

“I’m so pleased to be working with the Environmental Investigation Agency on the Chilling Facts campaign,” she said. “Reducing the climate change impact of supermarket refrigeration is a really significant achievement.

“We’re delighted with the progress to date but recognise that there’s still a lot more to be done.”

Chilling Facts III research shows UK retailers to be ahead of their European counterparts in phasing out HFCs, putting them in a strong position to meet any challenging targets set by legislation.


EIA calls on all supermarkets to:

1. Commit to fully phasing out HFCs by 2015;

2. Use HFC-free refrigeration in all new builds and refits;

3. Phase out HFCs in all air-conditioning systems, transport and distribution centres.

EIA calls on the UK government to:

1. Support an ambitious HFC phase-out as part of Europe’s F-gas regulation review;

2. Introduce a tax on HFCs;

3. Provide incentives for training refrigeration engineers to work with HFC-free technologies.

To read or download a copy of the Chilling Facts III report in pdf format, visit


1. The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) is a UK-based Non Governmental

Organisation and charitable trust (registered charity number 1040615) that investigates and campaigns against a wide range of environmental crimes, including illegal wildlife trade, illegal logging, hazardous waste, and trade in climate and ozone-altering chemicals.

2. The Chilling Facts Campaign has been set up by EIA to highlight the global

warming impacts of refrigeration and air-conditioning gases, and to promote

climate-friendly alternatives.

Source: and

Press Release, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School (24 March, 2011):

Belfer Center Programs or Projects: Environment and Natural Resources

CAMBRIDGE, MA— The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University announced today that the 2011 Roy Family Award for Environmental Partnership will be given to Refrigerants, Naturally!, an alliance of corporations substituting environmentally-harmful fluorinated gases (“F-gases”, such as CFCs, HCFCs and HFCs) with natural refrigerants in their commercial refrigeration installations. Natural refrigerants are climate and ozone friendly gases that exist naturally in the biosphere, i.e. ammonia, carbon dioxide, and hydrocarbons.

The award is presented every two years to celebrate an outstanding public-private partnership project that enhances environmental quality through the use of novel and creative approaches.  It will be presented to the recipients at a Harvard Kennedy School event later this spring.

Refrigerants, Naturally! brings together four high-profile private companies – The Coca-Cola Company, McDonald’s, Unilever, and PepsiCo – and two international environmental organizations – Greenpeace and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) – to combat climate change and ozone layer depletion by developing natural refrigeration technologies that are safe, reliable, affordable, and energy efficient.

In the 1990s, Greenpeace began a campaign to raise public awareness of the environmental impact of F-gas refrigerants and worked to lobby business to adopt HFC-free refrigeration solutions. Corporations, in turn, sought alternative refrigerants, but found that as manufacturers were not offering HFC-free options companies could not switch to natural refrigerants even if they wanted to do so. In 2004, Refrigerants, Naturally! was launched by McDonald’s , The Coca-Cola Company and Unilever to encourage manufacturers to make products using natural refrigerants and to share technological information. PepsiCo joined the initiative in 2006.  Since 2004, Refrigerants, Naturally has focused its efforts on overcoming barriers to the use of natural refrigerants including worldwide availability, maintenance, cost and regulation. Greenpeace and UNEP have been supporters of this partnership from the beginning, by providing advice, information and linkages to their own activities.

In addition to sharing technical information and best practices, the corporate members have each worked within their businesses to accelerate the deployment of natural refrigerant technologies. It is estimated that hundreds of thousands of tons of greenhouse gas emissions have been prevented from entering the atmosphere as a result.

Further evidence of the group’s leadership is demonstrated by the focus on outreach to other influential groups and in 2010 the first ever sustainable refrigeration summit of the Consumer Goods Forum, a CEO-led organization of 600 global consumer goods manufacturers and retailers, led to a pledge to begin phasing out HFC refrigerants as of 2015 and replace them with natural refrigerants.

“Strong U.S. legislation on climate may not be passed by this Congress, but Refrigerants, Naturally! demonstrates that meaningful reductions in greenhouse gas emissions are possible if business and NGOs are creative and are prepared to work together,” said Henry Lee, director of the Environment and Natural Resources program at Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, in announcing the 2011 award winner.

The partnership was selected from a group of highly qualified projects nominated from around the world that tackled tough environmental problems ranging from sustainable mining to responsible land stewardship. Experts from inside and outside of Harvard reviewed the nominees with the following criteria: innovation, effectiveness, significance and transferability.

Roy Family Award reviewers praised the impact of Refrigerants, Naturally! on an important and often overlooked problem – persistent F-gases in the Earth’s atmosphere – and held it up as a pragmatic example of corporations, a United Nations organization and a non-governmental environmental organization working together to reduce severe threats to the global environment.

Refrigerants, Naturally! has succeeded in creating a viable market for natural refrigerants for point-of-sale applications and has promoted F-gas-free technologies that are cost-efficient, energy saving and climate friendly.

The Roy Family has been a long-time supporter of the development of public-private partnerships to meet social goals. The Roy Family Award attempts to provide positive incentives for companies and organizations worldwide to push the boundaries of creativity and take risks that result in significant changes that benefit the environment.

Members and supporters of Refrigerants, Naturally!:

Corporate Members:


The Coca-Cola Company





United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP)

About the impact of f-gases and their use in refrigeration:

This edition of the Roy Family Award comes at a crucial time for climate protection. A recent UNEP report released at the Cancun climate negotiations highlighted that even if countries fully implemented the pledges and intentions associated with the Copenhagen Accord, in the best case scenario they could cut emissions to around 49 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent by 2020.  This leaves a gap of around 5 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent that needs to be bridged over the coming decade – an amount equal to the emissions of all the world’s cars, buses and trucks in 2005.[1] Cutting “non-C02 gases” including avoiding HFCs and improving energy efficiency of refrigeration equipment – as is being done voluntarily by the Refrigerants, Naturally! Partners – contributes to quickly close this gap.

In 1987, F-gases such as CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons) and later also HCFCs (hydrochlorofluorocarbons) were controlled under the Montreal Protocol due to their negative impact on the stratospheric ozone layer. Unfortunately, many of them were replaced with another generation of F-gas known as HFCs (hydrofluorocarbons). HFCs, which have a direct global warming impact more than a thousand times worse than the reference gas carbon dioxide, are currently used in much of the world’s commercial refrigeration to preserve food, maintain quality, and extend shelf life at all stages in the supply chain. Refrigeration is critical in food and beverage production, processing, storage, transportation and point-of-sale (e.g. supermarket cabinets, beverage coolers, ice cream freezers). Commercial refrigerants represent 41% of total refrigerant emissions.[2]

The consequences of the rapid growth in HFC emissions are sobering. Because they are persistent in the atmosphere, HFCs will be responsible for between 9% and 19% of carbon-equivalent emissions by 2050 even if we do not act to reduce CO2 (carbon dioxide) emissions. If the reduction of CO2 remains the focus of climate change initiatives and nothing is done about HFCs, they will be responsible for between 28% and 45% of CO2 equivalent emissions by 2050.[3]

About the Roy Family Award:

The purpose of the Roy Family Award for Environmental Partnership is to draw attention to an exceptional partnership and its achievements while inspiring others to replicate or expand upon its success.

In 2009, the Roy Award was presented to the Mexico City Metrobus, a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system that reduces air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, while improving the quality of life and transportation options in one of the largest cities in the world.The 2007 Award recognized the Hybrid Systems for Rural Electrification in Africa (HRSEA), a public-private partnership between Energiebau Solarstromsysteme, a German solar technology provider with international expertise, and InWEnt-Capacity Building International, Germany, a non-profit organization. HRSEA provides reliable, renewable electricity to rural African villages through a system of solar panel technology combined with modified diesel motors running on pure plant oil from the jatropha nut.


One Response to “Repair the Ozone Hole with Climate Friendly Refrigerants”

  1. Henry Markant Says:

    Most ozone (O3) is the result of lightning and industrial production for numerous beneficial applications—such as air and water cleansing and as a disinfectant in place of chlorine. Despite being generated by our white blood cells and by certain plants, it is short lived and not readily transported because it quickly decays to O2. Small commercial ozone generators are available for sale to consumers. Ozone is harmful to breathing animals, so concentrations in excess of sixty parts per billion should generally be avoided—depending on time of exposure. Nevertheless, when ozone rises to the stratosphere, it forms a layer twenty kilometers thick at between fifteen and thirty-five kilometers above ground that filters out 93-98 percent of the harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun.

    Laws requiring the substitution of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) by non-ozone-destroying gases have had a beneficial effect in reducing the “hole” in the ozone layer. Since it only has a duration of twenty-two days in the atmosphere, ozone must be constantly replaced—mostly by the sun’s ultraviolet rays reacting with oxygen but also, besides lightning, by our high-voltage electrical grids and motors using carbon brushes. This cycle has its limits so we must avoid destroying the ozone layer that circulates above the earth. There should be more research to learn what other factors impact the supply, destruction, and escape of ozone, without which there can be no life. Without the ozone layer, our farm products would burn up “on the vine,” as would we.

    When a space shuttle or Russian rocket sends supplies and scientists to the space station, each flight destroys ten thousand tons of ozone of the mere three billion tons protecting us. Increased space exploration and potentially huge numbers of flights for Earth-orbital sightseeing and moon tourism bode ill for the maintenance of this fragile layer. Better means of escaping from Earth’s atmosphere will necessitate the development of astounding solutions. We can visualize satellite terminals in stationary orbit above the atmospheric ozone layer from which nuclear-powered spaceships depart to the moon—and to which they might return. Or, we might have to fill tanks with ozone commercially produced on Earth and attach them to a satellite that would slowly release the gas in the orbit of the ozone layer.

Leave a Reply