22 December, 2020

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Latest Cooling News: Cyber threats; Kigali & Paris; dumping; women in cooling; and more

  Interactions between the Kigali Amendment and Paris Agreement  

An event organised by the Green Cooling Initiative has explored the interactions between the Paris Agreement, and the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, focusing on hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) mitigation activities and the transition to Green Cooling.  A recording of the event is available, and the slides and agenda can be found here.

Many refrigerants are HFCs which have high global warming potentials (GWP). In recognition of their climate impact, the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol requires signatory countries to phase-down the use of such HFCs.

The phase down will contribute significantly to the reduction of emissions needed to keep global temperature rise to less than 2°C as agreed at the 2015 Paris Agreement.  There is much overlap between the two regimes, yet no formally agreed method or rules in which the interaction and mutual impacts of the Kigali Amendment and the Paris Agreement can be accounted for, and harnessed to trigger transformational change and uptake of low-GWP or natural refrigerant alternatives for refrigeration, air conditioning, cooling and foam for insulation.

The first round of Nationally Determined Contributions in 2015 did not include the mitigation potential of low GWP refrigeration and air conditioning.  As countries are updating their NDCs for COP26, there is currently an opportunity to harness synergies between the two regimes.

The Green Cooling Initiative event examined how Article 6 of the Paris Agreement outlines possible market mechanisms, by generating revenues from the sale of carbon credits generated by HFC abatement.   It also can help fill gaps such as the destruction of HFC banks not covered in the Kigali Agreement.

Watch the video to find out more.


Managing waste

2020 marks the seventh year of the projectManagement and destruction of existing ozone depleting substances in ODS banks.

ODS, Ozone Depleting Substances, chemicals used in air conditioning equipment, refrigerants and other appliances. They include chlorofluorocarbons, hydrochlorofluorocarbons, halons, methyl bromide, carbon tetrachloride, hydrobromofluorocarbons, chlorobromomethane, and methyl chloroform. The term ‘ODS bank’ refers to waste containing these substances such as old fridges, air conditioners, etc.

In the context of international agreement to regulate the production and consumption of ODS by the Montreal Protocol and to phase-down HFCs with its Kigali Amendment, it is very surprising that there is no international agreement on their destruction.  ODS banks pose a gigantic threat to climate mitigation ambitions: it is estimated that annual releases and seepages from such high GWP ‘zombie fridges’ installations, equipment, foams and products, are equivalent to 441 coal power plants.

The objective of the ODS Banks project is to achieve a significant reduction in emissions from ODS banks. This is being done by providing strategies and good practice approaches for the sustainable management of ODS banks and helping partner countries develop management systems for ODS contained in cooling equipment.

The project created ODS inventories and gap analyses in specific sectors and partner countries. National ODS Banks roadmaps were developed with recommended short- and long-term actions.  Training was given to disseminate knowledge on how to safely and sustainably dismantle the appliances and remove the threat from the banks.  Strategic workshops were held with key stakeholders in partner countries to explore and understand the responsibilities and measures needed to implement the actions.

Above: the manual dismantling of old refrigerators in Colombia


Focus on Ghana

The situation of imported refrigerators and AC units in Ghana provides a human story to the problems of ODS banks. Old, second hand and low efficiency appliances contain ozone- and climate-damaging substances and are power hungry, stressing and overloading local electricity grids.

Ghana’s biggest dumping ground for e-waste (including old cooling appliances), Agbogbloshie, is considered one of the most toxic areas on the African continent, with low waged workers, including children, routinely exposed to health risks.

Old cooling appliances that are not recycled or dismantled properly release harmful greenhouse gases into the environment, equivalent to a flight from Germany to Ghana. They also release other toxins. Common methods of inappropriate waste processing for refrigerators include burning foam insulation so that copper and aluminium can be extracted.  Such practices release toxic chemicals into the immediate atmosphere and contaminate local land and water sources.

In 2008 Ghana banned imports of power hungry used cooling appliances, yet an estimated 300,000 used refrigerators continued to arrive every year, including from Britain, causing worsening power blackouts.  From 2013 Ghana banned imports of used cooling appliances. It is the process of implementing regulations for new cooling equipment to meet minimum energy performance standards. Other Africa countries are also looking ways to curb the flow of these appliances.  However success is still limited for many reasons, not least because many appliances which are imported are branded as new but are actually near the end of their lifespan.

This is happening despite international agreements: the 1989 Basel Convention prohibits illegal exports or dumping of non-working electronic products containing hazardous waste, and the EU’s Waste Shipment Directive forbids exports of waste electrical and electronic equipment to non-EU countries.

The underlying reason for this illegal trade is because western nations consider it too expensive to recycle refrigerants and refrigerators, and so want to dispose or offload the issue; and people in low to middle income countries need affordable devices to keep cool.

   Covid-19: Cold chain challenge   

Cyber attack!

In early December, IBM issued a warning that a sophisticated cyber-espionage operation, potentially from a nation-state, had been running since September 2020 to disrupt the delivery of the COVID vaccine ‘cold chain’ supply process.

It is thought that the purpose of the phishing emails sent were to harvest credentials to gain future unauthorized access to gain insight into internal communications, the process, methods and plans to distribute a COVID-19 vaccine, and more.

Given that two of the vaccines need to be kept at -70ºC, and will degrade if not kept at those temperatures, any disruption to delivery will potentially have profound health consequences.

Phishing emails were sent out across six countries, which targeted organisations linked to the Cold Chain Equipment Optimisation Platform of Gavi, the international vaccine alliance.  Gavi’s partners include the World Health Organization, Unicef, the World Bank and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. They help distribute vaccines some of the poorest regions of the world.

In July, the UK Government raised concerns that Russian intelligence had targeted UK vaccine research and the US warned of Chinese hacking.  Microsoft reported that it had seen North Korean and Russian hackers targeting vaccine research.


Cold chain challenges

A report for the Kigali Cooling Efficiency Programme by a team of different organisations focuses on understanding the cold chain challenge for Covid-19 vaccination.  Their key conclusions are as follows:

  • The COVID-19 pandemic will likely have forced 71 million people into extreme poverty in 2020, with an additional 130 million people facing acute food insecurity. Remote learning is not possible for at least 500 million students and the incomes of 1.6 billion people have dropped by ~60%.
  • Achieving herd immunity through vaccination means delivering the vaccine to 60-70% of the global population i.e., 4.7 to 5.5 billion people. Achieving this target critically depends on robust cold-chains, as vaccines lose their efficacy if optimal storage temperatures are not maintained.
  • Existing vaccine cold-chains are typically designed to provide a 2-8oC storage temperature; the number of medical freezers that can handle temperatures of -70ºC are extremely limited, even in the most developed countries. Cold-chain expansion required for coronavirus vaccines thus requires significantly higher levels of investment in equipment and infrastructure, especially in developing countries.
  • A silver lining of coronavirus is the opportunity to build a more sustainable and resilient cooling economy, and address gaps in cold-chains for medicine and other sectors, deploying zero/low carbon technologies with natural/low-GWP refrigerants.
  • Given the fact that large proportion of the world live in rural, remote areas in developing countries, a key challenge for Coronavirus immunisation will be the last mile distribution.  It is essential that each vaccination site is equipped with adequate cooling equipment and reliable electricity. Vaccination sites are influenced by geographical barriers, access, energy supply, conflict, and many other factors. Drones could be used to deliver the vaccine to remote areas.
  • Gender barriers mean that planning robust outreach sessions is crucial: limited access to transportation, needing a male chaperone, and household chores may prevent many women and children receiving treatment.
  • Existing vaccine campaigns must not be overlooked: UNICEF and WHO estimate that up to 80 million children are at risk of missing out on vaccinations against vaccine-preventable diseases due to the pandemic.
  • An insufficient supply of engineers, technicians and mechanics with cold chain skills, and unreliable electricity supply, could lead to malfunctioning equipment and knock on consequences of unnecessary energy use and GHG emissions, environmental pollution and damage, vaccine degradation and waste, administration of ineffective vaccines, and ultimately a wide range of avoidable costs.
  • In addition to the cooling needs, the huge numbers of disposable syringes, PPE, packaging, and other supplies necessitates waste management and disposal/recycling. Waste logistics challenge are often overlooked.

   News bites   

Kigali

The Kingdom of Eswatini, formerly Swaziland, has become the 112th country to ratify the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol and commit to cut the production and consumption of HFCs by more than 80% over the next 30 years.


Ladies Team

The Ladies Team of the Pan-Africa RAC association, U-3RAC, the Union of Associations of African Actors in Refrigeration and Air Conditioning, was formed on World Refrigeration Day, 26 June 2020.  In November, the Ladies Team had their first meeting online, in which members talked about the challenges they face, and shared successes. A significant number of women had formed their own businesses to break through and succeed.  You can watch the recording of the event here.


Interactive tool

Lancet Countdown has produced an interactive data tool that shows the number of people vulnerable to extremes of heat across the world, over 1990 to 2017.  The mission of the Lancet Countdown is to ensure policymakers understand and respond to climate change by providing high-quality evidence-based guidance and tools.

The analysis shows that vulnerability to the extremes of heat continues to increase in every region of the world.  Populations in Europe, with the Western Pacific region, South-East Asia region, and the African region all show an increase of more than 10% since 1990.

People over 65 years of age, particularly those with chronic medical conditions (such as diabetes and heart, lung and kidney disease), are among the most vulnerable to the health effects of heatwaves.

 

 



California introduces new HFC rules

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) has introduced new ‘breath-taking’ rules to reduce HFC emissions to 40% below 2013 levels by 2030.

The objective is to eliminate the use of very high-GWP refrigerants in non-residential refrigeration systems, and help the state achieve its goal of carbon neutrality. CARB estimates that 3.2 million metric tons of GHGs will be saved by 2030 and more than 62 million metric tons by 2040.  This the equivalent to taking more than 12 million cars off the road with further potential benefits from avoided climate impacts of more than $7 billion.

From 2022, supermarkets will be allowed to only purchase systems using refrigerants with a GWP less than 150. They must also meet benchmarks for reducing their refrigerant footprint in existing stores by more than half in 2030.  Compliance begins for most home air conditioning equipment in 2025.

Prior to 2018, California was the only state that regulated HFCs. Sixteen other states have now passed legislation, based on California’s rules, or are in the process of doing so.

These new rules are the first to enact comprehensive measures to ban many HFCs in new equipment, while also tackling existing emissions and venting of refrigerants. It will affect commercial and industrial, stationary refrigeration units, as well as commercial and residential air conditioning units.


Evaporative cools as ‘green’ AC

Panasonic has launched “Green AC (Ambience Changer) Flex”, an environmentally-friendly mist system for outdoor environments such as outdoor attractions, shopping areas, restaurants, public transportation waiting areas etc. It can be used for many other uses, from removing electronic static to theatrical effects.

The system generates an ultra-fine mist system which can lower temperatures through evaporative cooling by up to 4ºC.  The size of each mist particle is 6㎛ which apparently provides a comfortable cooling sensation with almost no feeling of wetness.

Panasonic claim that the system consumes 70% less energy compared to conventional systems.

But what about the volume of water consumed? Could the use of this product put strain on potentially limited clean water resources?


Singapore

Singapore has the most air-conditioning units per capita in Southeast Asia, and the city-state has been warming at twice the rate as the world average, according to government data. Its 5.7 million residents experience daily temperatures of ~27ºC all year round.

Using foliage and green spaces is now being accompanied by building design and smart technology : from petal-shaped, ventilating rooftops and cooling, underground water pipes to digital twin data modelling to better understand how future urban planning decisions will affect heat levels and still enable the city to halve its emissions by 2050.

You can read more about strategy of Singapore to remain cool here.


   UK news   

Review of increase in AC and impact on electric demand

A new report has provided a first estimate of the effect of domestic air conditioning uptake in the UK and its effect on the national grid in 2050.

Climate change has caused rising temperatures worldwide, including hotter summers in the UK, and in years to come households may be expected to start installing air conditioning.  Most UK building decarbonisation research to date has focused on creating sustainable and affordable heating solutions.  However, the increase in extreme heat episodes, and heat related deaths, have shown the need for cooling. 

Using a set of socio-technical scenarios, building simulations to determine power consumption, and other approaches, the researchers estimate that between 5-32% of English households adopting air conditioning by 2050.  In the worst-case scenario, the evening peak was increased by 7 GW due to the combined effect of an expected evening EV charging peak and no solar PV generation.

The electricity demand in Great Britain on a typical summer day – with and without domestic air conditioning.

The expected increase in power is much less that the expected winter heating demand, which will drive investment to ensure the required capacity, and so the national grid should be able to supply the expected cooling needs easily.

These results highlight the need for flexibility on electricity demands.


The British Retail Consortium’s Climate Action Roadmap

The British Retail Consortium has called for targeted financial support for the installation of climate-friendly refrigeration to aid its “critical role” in achieving the UK’s net zero target.  By 2040 it wants “every UK consumer to be able to make purchases – in store and online – safe in the knowledge that they are not contributing to climate change.”

It has developed a decarbonisation plan that will help the industry achieve a Net Zero UK, ahead of 2050.  The  Climate Action Roadmap provides retailers with guidance on actions to decarbonise their operations and supply chains, and tools to create their own net zero journey.

The BRC urges the transition to low or zero GWP refrigerants and asks food retailers to integrate the regulatory HFC phase-down into their strategic thinking on refrigeration so that natural and zero global warming refrigerants are chosen.

The BRC points out that for many retailers replacing, regular maintenance, and/or retrofitting cold storage assets could be prohibitively expensive, and that governmental support, in the form of targeted financial support beyond tax benefits, for energy efficient refrigeration is critical.  For example, major energy savings can be achieved by installing efficient cooling technologies and interventions such as adding doors to chiller systems (20-50% energy savings).