Anybody who has worked in the environmental field is used to spending months or years on a project that may lead to little measurable improvement in our actual environmental quality. Bills get blocked. Studies sit on shelves, at least until they hit the circular file. The sun goes up every day, but the sunset gets delayed by the lobbyists who carve out another year of ethanol excise tax credits. And so it goes.
Against this backdrop comes a rather remarkable breakthrough on green refrigeration. The Consumer Goods Forum (CGF), comprised of the world's 400 largest consumer goods manufacturers and retailers, announced at the Cancun climate summit it will phase out hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigeration starting in 2015. This is a big deal. The Washington Post notes that HFCs have a climate impact 3,380 times that of carbon dioxide over a 20-year period. CGF has a combined purchasing power of about $2.8 trillion per year, so anybody making refrigeration will soon be making HFC-free refrigeration. There will be a wide array of product options that will have a far lower carbon impact than current units as a result.
The CEO's of these firms should be congratulated for moving in this direction. However, credit also goes to some of the little guys: a big impetus for this shift came from Greenpeace. That's right -- from banner hanging, ship chasing, tower climbing Greenpeace. Their Greenpeace Solutions unit works collaboratively with industries to jointly solve environmental problems. And Amy Larkin, with whom I've had the pleasure to work over the past few years, has been a driving force in alternative refrigeration for some time. Greenpeace itself has been pushing green refrigeration through it's GreenFreeze program since 1993.
GE plans to introduce its first HFC-free consumer model this year, though it will be pricey. With so many of the large consumer goods companies shifting their own refrigeration to HFC-free in the next couple of years, prices will hopefully fall quickly.