Select Committee on Environmental Audit Written Evidence

Memorandum submitted by The Multisectoral Initiative on Potent Industrial Greenhouse Gases (MIPIGGs)


  The Multisectoral Initiative on Potent Industrial Greenhouse Gases (MIPIGGs—see is an informal network of companies, NGOs, individual scientists and agencies who share a common concern that society should reduce and eliminate the environmental threat posed by the very potent greenhouse gases, SF6, PFCs and HFCs (f-gases).

  MIPIGGs draws your attention to the scope to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases in the UK and elsewhere, by reducing and eliminating the use of f-gases (greenhouse gases containing fluorine).

  These gases are very much more powerful than CO2—often over a thousand times more potent. Fortunately, they are easily substituted—there are many available commercialised technologies (the main applications being in air conditioning and refrigeration). Unfortunately very little is being done, and f-gas emissions are rising almost exponentially[209].

  This compounds the climate change problem caused by CO2, methane and nitrous oxide.

  By 2050, a 20 year time horizon in HFCs are expected to make up 8.6% of total global warming, doing as much damage to the climate as the traffic fumes of all the worlds private cars. HFCs are building up very rapidly in the atmosphere (20% a year over the arctic[210]), reflecting pollution from many uses, most notably including car air conditioning, and commercial refrigeration.

  Because they have started from a low base, f-gases have been mostly ignored in public and political debate over climate change. (Very few campaign groups focus on f-gases and the proposed draft EU Regulation on f-gases will, at most, return emissions to 1995 levels by 2020[211]). Yet by removing them from the equation, considerable leeway could be created to buy more time for action on energy and other difficult issues.

  We urge your Committee to press the UK Government on this issue, and to explore with them the scope for implementing the sort of tougher policies against uses of f-gases being adopted in countries such as Denmark and Austria. Some relevant points are made below—more information is to be found at Excellent technical information has been done by the German, Danish and Austrian environment Ministries and Agencies and we suggest that you consider calling them to give evidence.

  Within the UK, companies[212] such as Calor (until recently a manufacturer of hydrocarbon refrigerants—the business has now been sold to BOC), and Earthcare (air conditioning and refrigeration), and Wormald (fire extinguishers) should be able to supply technical information and sales case studies and data about alternatives to f-gases. Briefing material is available at our website

  Whereas building new nuclear capacity is of questionable on grounds of cost-effectiveness, creates an insoluble waste problem and is unacceptable to large parts of the public, measures to eliminate f-gases are environmentally safe, and usually have knock-on effects in reducing energy usage as they are more energy efficient than HFCs[213] (for instance in fridges and the rapidly growing sector of air conditioning).


  Scientific research increasingly shows the reality of climate change caused through global warming is worse, not better, than was generally predicted. Here are two very recent examples:

    —  Work at MIT reveals that hurricane strengths have increased in line with warming water in the Caribbean[214].

    —  It has just been discovered[215] that all the UK's reductions in "carbon" (and equivalent greenhouse gas) emissions achieved through policy, have been more than wiped out by loss of carbon from warmer soils. The same phenomenon will exist in other EU States. This reality means we must do as much as is technically achievable to reduce emissions of all greenhouse gases.

  The draft f-gas Regulation rests primarily on the notion of "containment". This failed with CFCs and it has been clearly demonstrated that it is failing with HFCs[216]. This summer a detailed examination[217] of the assumptions adopted by the Commission in drafting the Regulation showed that the Dutch STEK system may be allowing emissions of at least 6.9-12.7% rather than the often quoted 4.8%. If the Netherlands cannot effectively contain f-gases with such a system then it is unlikely that any EU Member State can. This means that the Regulation should be strengthened by introducing measures requiring substitution of alternative technologies with no risk of f-gases escaping. So far, it fails to require substitution for major uses such as commercial refrigeration.

  There is enormous un-tapped scope to avoid this. Unlike emissions of greenhouse gases from soils for example, it is easy to use technical measures to prevent these greenhouse gas emissions[218]. Commercial lobbying by the f-gas industry has prevented this potential being taken up. Sadly, in the UK, policy does not require use of such alternatives.

  The German EPA also recently reported[219] that a cut of 30% in German f-gas emissions is possible by 2020 if available substitute technologies are used (for example hydrocarbons, ammonia and water based systems in large-scale air conditioning and refrigeration). Simply applying the Regulation as drafted would only stabilise emissions of HFCs at 1995 levels, the German study showed. Substitutes exist for all f-gas uses. The Regulation needs to require substitution and introduce bans on f-gas applications.

  The f-gas lobby is primarily American backed and that f-gases are actively promoted in the USA. The US EPA has even given awards for companies making HFCs on the grounds that they can substitute for CFCs (ozone depleters)—yet non-greenhouse gas alternatives exist which must be used instead if we are to protect the climate.

  Austria, Denmark, Sweden and Switzerland have all adopted policies which outlaw specific uses of HFCs, PFCs and SF6. Established commercial alternatives exist for HFCs in refrigeration and air conditioning, fire extinguishing and insulation. Over 120 million domestic fridges using hydrocarbons (alternatives to HFCs) have operated successfully since 1992 but HFCs are widely used in the USA and in larger shop and office systems, due to the lobbying power of the chemical (fluorocarbon) industry.

  In 2004[220] American multinationals Coca Cola and MacDonalds and Anglo-Dutch giant Unilever all took measures to adopt non-HFC technologies (mostly hydrocarbons) for chilling, cooling and air conditioning, in ice cream, restaurant, drinks and other applications. This shows that positive change is possible—regulation should require it.

  The new[221] (in Europe) use of HFCs in car air conditioning could be avoided by requiring use of proven CO2-based technologies[222] or not fitting mobile air conditioning to cars. Existing mobile air conditioning uses HFC 134a. US car companies use also advocate HFC 152a, (140 times more powerful than CO2).

  In 2004, the UK Government reversed previous policy that HFCs should only be used as substitutes for CFCs, where essential, and instead allowed them in entirely new uses, such as car air conditioning.

  In 2002 atmospheric levels of HFC 134a and 125 over Svalbard (Spitsbergen) were 20% higher than in 2001[223]. Another report has shown, as IPCC suggests, that HFC use leads directly to pollution, and HFCs leak as rapidly as did CFCs[224]. HFCs from mobile air conditioning (mainly cars) already has the same impact as all of Sweden's greenhouse gas emissions[225]. Over 60% of HFC emissions result from routine leaks from refrigeration and air conditioning[226].

  At present governments are allowing HFCs to be used to replace uses of CFCs and HCFCs[227]. So far only about 30% of uses have been so substituted, and resulting HFC emissions comprise about 1.5% of total global warming. If all HCFCs and CFCs are replaced with HFCs, the figure will not be 1.5%, but 4.1% (the impact over 100 years), and over the critical next 20 years, 5.2%.[228]

  Between 1990 and 2003 annual global sales of HFC 134a rose from 189 metric tons to 166,899[229].

  I hope you find these points useful in regard to the inquiry and please don't hesitate to contact me if you require any further information.

17 September 2005

Analysis by climatologist Kerry Emanuel of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology shows for the first time that major storms spinning in both the Atlantic and the Pacific since the 1970s have increased in duration and intensity by about 50%. Emanuel found that in the past three decades, Atlantic-basin hurricanes have grown more than twice as powerful, with a notably sharp upswing since 1995. The researcher links the formation of intensified storms to an increase in average ocean-surface temperature of nearly one degree Fahrenheit during the same period—due in part to climate change. If coastal populations continue to increase, Emanuel writes, it is likely to mean "a substantial increase in hurricane-related losses in the 21st century." Emanuel's is the first study to make a statistical link between global warming and stronger Atlantic storms.

Higher UK temperatures are causing soils to "exhale" large quantities of carbon dioxide, probably accelerating global warming, scientists report. They base their assessment on a huge analysis of soil samples gathered from across England and Wales over 25 years. The team says its findings, if extended to the whole of the UK, suggest some 13 million tonnes of carbon are being lost from British soils each year.

The Cranfield University group reports its work in the journal Nature.The scientists say computer models used to forecast future climate trends will now have to be revised because the calculations on which they are based will be wide of the mark.

"Our findings suggest the soil part of the equation is scarier than we had thought," Professor Guy Kirk, of Cranfield University, told journalists at the British Association's Festival of Science in Dublin, Ireland.

"The consequence is that there is more urgency about doing something—global warming will accelerate."

Author: Dr. Winfried Schwarz, Frankfurt.

Author: Dr. Winfried Schwarz, Frankfurt.

209   IPCC Assessment Report 2001 Climate Change: The Scientific Basis. Back

210   ENDS Daily 6 February 2004. Back

211   ENDS Daily-29 August 2005, Issue 1931, German EPA f-gas study. Back

212   For example the wide range of air conditioning, refrigeration and chilling systems sold and installed by Earthcare Products , and the CARE range of refrigerants developed by Calor Gas, the non HFC fire extinguisher range marketed by Wormald, and yellow, white and rock wool mineral insulation Back

213   Hydrocarbons and other alternatives are also often more efficient and cheaper than HFCs. For example in 2004 a study of the type of refrigerant used in appliances labelled energy category A+ or A++ in the EU showed that just four out of 866 used HFCs, the vast majority using hydrocarbons instead. Back

214   Increasing destructiveness of tropical cyclones over the past 30 years; Kerry Emanuel - Nature 436, 686-688 (04 Aug 2005) Letters to Editor. Back

215   [2] Warmer soils add to climate worry. Back

216   HFC containment has already failed Atlantic Consulting, February 2004 report at Back

217   Is STEK as good as reported? Jason Anderson Institute for European Environment Policy Back

218   A comprehensive 248 page German study "Fluorinated greenhouse gases in products and processes-technical climate protection measures" (17/09/04) by the German Federal Environmental Agency describes the many technically and economically feasible f-gas substitution measures that are available now. A MIPIGGs summary of the report is also available (see Back

219   See ENDS Environment Daily-Monday 29 August 2005, Issue 1931). Back

220 Back

221   In Germany, 9.4% of all cars sold in 1992 were equipped with AC; in 1998 the figure was 68%, rising to a predicted 90% in 2001 (Schwarz & Leisewitz 1999 cited in Keeping cool without warming the planet: Cutting HFCs, PFCs, and SF6 in Europe Jason Anderson Climate Network Europe Back

222   World's First CO2 Air Conditioning System by Satoshi Itoh, Denso in Auto Technology 1, 2004; and, [BMW ?] and a French firm expects its CO2 technolgy to be marketed in 2009: Valeo develops environmentally friendly R744 air conditioning system These CO2 technologies use CO2 recovered from the air or waste gases. Back

223   ENDS Daily 6 February 2004 Back

224   HFC containment has already failed Atlantic Consulting, February 2004 report at Back

225 citing GRID-Arendal Back

226   The high and still growing share of fluorinated greenhouse gases in overall global warming emissions-Summary of an O­ko-Recherche study (including special remarks on commercial refrigeration), Frankfurt, June 2004, on behalf of Greenpeace Back

227   chlorine-containing gases controlled under the Montreal Protocol of the Vienna Convention on the ozone layer. Back

228   The high and still growing share of fluorinated greenhouse gases in overall global warming emissions-Summary of an O­ko-Recherche study (including special remarks on commercial refrigeration), Frankfurt, June 2004, on behalf of Greenpeace Back

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