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Report: Recycling Refrigerants Can Easily Eliminate Billions of Tons of Greenhouse Gases

Image credit: EOS Climate

If only 30 percent of hydrofluorocarbons (HFC) refrigerants are reclaimed for reuse by 2040, approximately 18 billion metric tons carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent would be prevented from reaching the atmosphere over the next 25 years, according to a white paper released today by EOS Climate, a company that incentivizes the complete life cycle management of harmful refrigerants — using the power of capital markets to address climate change. Recycling HFC Refrigerants Delivers Immediate, Cost-Effective Climate Protection was released during the Navigating the American Carbon World conference, a leading forum for discussing climate policy and greenhouse gas markets, which wrapped up today in Los Angeles, California.

“Even with a global agreement to phase down production of HFCs and regulations that promote low-global warming potential (GWP) technology in new equipment, refrigerants already produced will continue to leak powerful greenhouse gases into the atmosphere over the next several decades,” said Jeff Cohen, co-founder of EOS Climate and white paper co-author. “With relatively small changes in practices and little if any additional cost, HFC refrigerants can be recovered, reclaimed and re-used, potentially avoiding emissions equivalent to billions of tons of CO2 between now and 2040 — a critical window to address climate change.”

HFCs were developed as “ozone-friendly” substitutes for chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) when those ozone-depleting chemicals were being phased out under the Montreal Protocol. Although they are safe for the stratospheric ozone layer, HFCs — like CFCs and HCFCs — are powerful greenhouse gases when released to the atmosphere. Pound for pound, HFCs have global warming potentials (GWPs) hundreds to thousands times higher than CO2 and are among the fastest-growing GHGs in the world. The U.S., with support from a number of countries, has proposed a gradual phasedown of HFC production, but any production phase-down would not address HFC refrigerants in use.

“If left unchecked, HFC refrigerants will continue on the path as the world’s fastest-growing greenhouse gas. The simplest and most cost-effective way to address this problem is through recycling,” added Joe Madden, co-founder of EOS Climate and white paper co-author. “However, until HFC refrigerants are tracked from production to reuse in the supply chain, and metrics are established that incentivize their re-use, the likelihood of voluntary recycling will remain low. Now is the time to act.”

In 2013, EOS Climate launched its Refrigerant Asset System™ (RAS), the first cross-sector business model that focuses on refrigerants as assets. RAS allows businesses to investing in the conservation and maintenance of refrigerants, and monetize them when they have reached the end of their useful life. 


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