Three world leaders in food and soft drinks today promised to phase out the powerful global warming gases, hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) in their refrigeration equipment (1). The announcement comes 11 years after Greenpeace showed the world that the future of cooling could become climate-friendly.
In a joint conference in Brussels, Unilever, Coca-Cola and McDonald's presented their programme for the beginning of the end of HFCs. Their initiative is supported by Greenpeace and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
The companies' pledges are a further response to Greenpeace demands made in the run-up to the Sydney Olympics in 2000, when the global environmental organisation called on each of these market leaders to commit to an HFC-free future. Within a month of Greenpeace launching a hard-hitting consumer campaign, Coca- Cola promised a phase-out in time for the Athens Olympics. Seven years earlier, in 1993, Greenpeace had proved HFCs were unnecessary for refrigeration, when it developed and marketed Greenfreeze, the world's first CFC- and HFC-free refrigerator. Greenfreeze revolutionised the technology and became an industry standard in domestic refrigeration (2).
Gerd Leipold, Executive Director of Greenpeace International said:
"Greenpeace welcomes the commitments made by Unilever, Coca-Cola and McDonald's. We call on their competitors, such as Nestle, Pepsi and Burger King, to follow suit. But corporate action is only half the picture. For a complete solution, governments must act. Politicians can't sit back and wait for the market to deliver, because on its own, it won't."
As of 2005, Unilever Ice-Cream will purchase only HFC-free ice-cream cabinets. Already, some 14,000 units have been replaced. Coca-Cola will convert millions of drinks-vending machines around the world to non-HFC refrigerants. McDonald's will make changes in some 30,000 restaurants, converting its 11 types of refrigeration units - including air-conditioning, walk-in-freezers, salad and drinks coolers - to alternative refrigerants.
Behind all three companies stand major technology suppliers, which have made these technologies available thanks to multi-million-Euro investments. As the companies presented their phase-out strategies at today's conference, the suppliers presented their technologies, based on natural hydrocarbons, CO2 and Stirling.
"But three companies are not going to prevent climate change. At expected rates of usage, by 2050 HFCs will contribute as much to global warming as all the private cars on the planet today," concluded Leipold.
Please contact Katharine Mill, Greenpeace Media Officer based in Brussels, 0032 496 156 229 or Greenpeace UK Press Office on 0207 865 8255
Greenpeace briefing: "The cool story of the phase out of CFC and HFC in refrigeration" available at www.greenpeace.org.uk or from the Greenpeace Press Office
Notes to Editors:
(1) HFCs are far more potent for global warming than the best-known greenhouse gas, CO2. They were introduced by the chemical industry 15 years ago, around the time CFCs started to be regulated under the Montreal Protocol.
(2) Greenpeace developed the Greenfreeze technology together with the East German company FORON, having opposed the introduction of HFCs from the start. Now an industry standard in Europe, China, Japan, Latin America and Australia, it has sold some 120 million models to date. Outside the US, Greenfreeze established itself as the leading technology for domestic fridges.
(3) Greenpeace demands that:
- Governments phase-out HFCs immediately, or, where no immediate substitutes exist, specific phase-out dates are fixed. No time frame should exceed five years.
- Governments tax the use of HFCs until phase-out. The tax would be based on global warming potential and, thus, on environmental impact of applications.
- The Parties to the Montreal Protocol stop the funding of HFC projects through the Multilateral Fund and dramatically accelerate the phase-out of HCFCs. Governments establish a compensatory fund into which HFC-producers pay, to compensate for environmental and human health cost arising from the extensive use of HFCs.
- The European Union introduce immediate phase-out dates for HFCs in all applications in its proposed Fluorinated Gases Regulation.