About

Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) are potent greenhouse gases used as alternatives to ozone-depleting substances (ODS) being phased out under the Montreal Protocol. Atmospheric observations show that the volume of HFCs in the atmosphere is increasing rapidly, about 10-15% per year.

Significant growth in HFC use is expected in developing countries because of population growth, rapid urbanization, electrification and changing consumer patterns. The increased use of refrigerants will also result in increased energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.  If no measures are taken, it is estimated that HFCs will amount to 9-19% of total CO2 emissions by 2050.

The HFC Initiative has brought together governments, the private sector, and intergovernmental organizations to disseminate information on and strategies for developing, deploying, and promoting climate-friendly technologies. Capacity building activities, including technology conferences and exhibitions, interactive partner tools, and case studies, have increased knowledge of more sustainable technologies that are available in a number of sectors, including refrigeration and air conditioning, as well as provided information on policies that promote development and deployment of these alternatives. 

Top facts

Global energy demand from air conditioners is expected to triple by 2050, requiring new electricity capacity the equivalent to the combined electricity capacity of the United States, the EU and Japan today
The global stock of air conditioners in buildings will grow to 5.6 billion by 2050, up from 1.6 billion today – which amounts to 10 new units sold every second for the next 30 years
Combining the phase down of HFC production and consumption with energy efficiency gains in cooling is expected to double the anticipated CO2-e savings, avoiding as much as 1°C of global warming

Factsheets

Objectives

The HFC Initiative's overall objective is to significantly reduce the projected growth in the use and emissions of high-GWP HFCs in coming decades.  More specifically, it aims to mobilize efforts of the private sector, civil society, international organizations, and governments, with a view to:
     

  • Promote the development, commercialization, and adoption of climate-friendly alternatives to high-GWP HFCs for all relevant industry sectors
  • Build international awareness and support for approaches to curb HFC growth, such as a global phase-down of HFC consumption and production under the Montreal Protocol and commitments/pledges by CCAC partners
  • Encourage national, regional and global policies or approaches to reduce reliance on high-GWP HFCs and support the uptake of climate-friendly alternatives
  • Overcome barriers that limit the widespread introduction of these climate-friendly technologies and practices, including those related to the establishment of standards
  • Encourage the responsible management of existing equipment and better designs for future equipment in order to minimize leaks

Activities

Location of activities

  • Africa
    • Ghana
    • Nigeria
  • Asia and the Pacific
    • Bangladesh
    • India
    • Indonesia
    • Maldives
    • Vietnam
  • Latin America and the Caribbean
    • Chile
    • Colombia
  • West Asia
    • Jordan

Description of activities

Workstream | Efficient Cooling, HFC
Ongoing
To address an important gap in end-of-life disposal of fluorocarbon refrigerants, in December 2019, the Efficient Cooling Initiative joined together with Japan’s Ministry of Environment to develop...
Discarded air conditioners
Workstream | HFC
Ongoing
HFCs have a wide range of uses, including in foams, refrigeration, and aerosols, and manufacturers tend to use well-known existing technology solutions that currently are not as climate-friendly as...
Workstream | HFC
Ongoing
These demonstration projects, approved by the Coalition's Working Group in April 2014, will demonstrate and promote the deployment of low-global warming potential (GWP), climate-friendly alternatives...
Workstream | HFC
Ongoing
This workstream aims to build capacity amongst industry stakeholders and policy-makers on HFC alternative technologies, policies and standards, addressing specific sectors where HFCs are used. When...
Activity | Finance, HFC
India | Closed
Hot climatic conditions, a growing construction sector, and increasing per capita income are expected to drive unprecedented demand for air conditioning in India. Over the coming decade living...
Activity | HFC
Vietnam | Closed
In order to better understand the current and future role of HFCs as well as other HCFC alternatives in its economy, particularly given its recent HCFC phase-out commitments and in anticipation of...
Activity | HFC
Maldives | Closed
The Coalition, through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Devcco, prepared a study to examine the feasibility of replacing the existing population of HCFC/HFC based air-conditioners...
Malé, Maldives

Achievements to date

HFC Initiative funding has helped countries transition away from high global-warming potential (GWP) HFCs by providing inventories and studies, technology demonstration projects, and various capacity-building activities. Our achievements include:

Funding (as of Oct 2020): USD 3,199,590
Co-funding (as of Oct 2020): USD 94,095
Catalysed funding (as of Oct 2020): USD 27.5 million

Initiative contacts

Denise San Valentin,
Initiatives Coordinator/Programme Manager
denise.sanvalentin [at] un.org

Partners & Actors

Lead Partner: A Coalition partner with an active role in coordinating, monitoring and guiding the work of an initiative.

Implementer: A Coalition partner or actor receiving Coalition funds to implement an activity or initiative.

Partners (13)

FAQ

How do HFCs threaten to offset the climate benefits of the Montreal Protocol?

According to research, if the emissions of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and other ozone-depleting substances (ODS) had continued to grow at the rate they were growing before the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone layer, the net effect is equivalent to 135 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide, which is double total annual greenhouse gas emissions to date. Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) are rapidly increasing in the atmosphere as they are adopted as ozone-friendly alternatives. Emissions of HFCs are growing at a rate of 8% per year, and by 2050, without action, they could rise so high that they almost cancel the tremendous climate benefits won earlier by the phase-out of ODS.

How can we minimize the climate influence of HFCs?

There are three categories of alternative technical options for minimizing the influence of HFCs on climate: (1) Alternative methods and processes (also called ‘not-in-kind’ alternatives): Commercially used examples include fibre insulation materials, dry-powder asthma inhalers and building designs that avoid the need for air-conditioners; (2) Using non-HFC substances with low or zero GWP: Commercially used examples include hydrocarbons, ammonia, CO2, dimethyl ether and other diverse substances used in various types of foam products, refrigeration, and fire protection systems; and (3) Using low-GWP HFCs: HFCs currently in use have a range of atmospheric lifetimes and GWPs (the shorter the lifetime, the lower the GWP). The mix of HFCs in current use, weighted by usage (tonnage), has an average lifetime of 15 years. However, several low- GWP HFCs (with lifetimes of less than a few months) are now being introduced, e.g. HFC-1234ze in foam.

Are there available alternatives to HFCs in all sectors?

There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution on HFC alternatives. Many ozone-friendly and climate-friendly alternatives exist for high-GWP HFCs in a number of sectors. More work needs to be done before full advantage of these alternatives can be taken, and the CCAC contributes to this task through the implementation of HFC inventories, technology demonstration projects, and capacity-building and awareness raising activities. The solution that works best will depend on many factors such as the local situation for production and use, the costs of different alternatives, the availability of components, and the feasibility of implementation.

Resources

2020 | Reports, Case Studies & Assessments
, Dreyfus, G., Borgford-Parnell, N., Christensen, J., Fahey, D.W., Motherway, B., Peters, T., Picolotti, R., Shah, N., and Xu, Y., Molina, M., and Zaelke, D., Steering Committee co-chairs

This report is the background document providing the basis for the Cooling Emissions and Policy Synthesis Report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the International Energy...

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