Protecting the Climate

With global surface temperatures soaring past highs not seen for millennia, the need for climate-friendly cooling has never been greater. Air conditioning and refrigeration undergird modern life – sheltering homes and businesses from the summer sun and preventing food and medicines from spoiling in the heat.

A generation ago, air conditioning and refrigeration manufacturers invested in innovation to replace the chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) refrigerants destroying the stratospheric ozone layer that shields the earth from harmful ultraviolent radiation. Now the ozone layer is on a path to recovery, and air conditioning and refrigeration manufacturers are investing again in innovation – this time to replace hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants that are among the world’s most potent greenhouse gases (GHGs), thousands of times more powerful than carbon dioxide (CO2).

A photograph of cooler fans

Transitioning from Super Pollutant Refrigerants

HFCs are subject to a broad range of regulations that are projected to grow increasingly stringent over the next decade. Most HFC applications, such as refrigeration and air conditioning equipment that rely on HFCs as refrigerants, must transition to next generation refrigerant technologies in the 2025-2030 time.

HFCs are being targeted by regulatory efforts at international, national, and sub-national levels because many HFCs have high Global Warming Potentials (GWPs) – that is, most are hundreds to several thousand times more potent in warming the planet than CO2. For example, the GWP of one of the most common HFC refrigerants, HFC-134a, is 1,430 – meaning it is 1,430 times as potent as CO2.

HFCs also have relatively short atmospheric lifetimes, typically between 5 to 20 years, meaning their impact on the climate is greater in the near term than CO2, which persists in the atmospheric for up to 1,000 years. This also means that near-term abatement of HFC emissions has greater benefit for the climate, making HFCs highly attractive to policymakers eager to forestall rising temperatures.

Climate Change Law & Regulation

The Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol kickstarted the race to replace HFCs, driving increasingly stringent domestic laws and regulations restricting both the upstream supply and downstream use of HFCs with high GWPs. Within a decade, most high GWP HFCs will be gone.

But many of today’s substitute refrigerants, although lower in GWP, are toxic and flammable and, as such, raise serious health and safety risks. They also leak from equipment and must be recovered at end-of-life, imposing costly maintenance burdens on home and business owners. And they create technical barriers for manufacturers seeking to improve the energy efficiency of their equipment, which saves customers money and protects the climate by reducing energy use.

The image shows people from different countries coming together to discuss environmental issues as part of the United Nations Environment Programme.
This image is showing the various regulations and guidelines that must be followed for law transparency and audit policies.

Navigating the Regulatory Landscape

Air conditioning and refrigeration equipment also is subject to other increasingly stringent regulatory measures in the United States, Europe, and around the world as part of the transition from HFCs to more climate-friendly substitutes.

These measures include bans or other restrictions on fossil fuel-based appliances; higher appliance energy efficiency standards; refrigerant management rules to detect and prevent refrigerant leaks and require the recovery of refrigerant at equipment end-of-life for recycling, reclaiming, or destruction; and new appliance design specifications and use conditions to minimize risks from substitute refrigerants that may be flammable or toxic (or both).

GHG emissions reporting requirements also impose compliance obligations on entities that utilize HFCs in refrigeration or air conditioning equipment as part of their businesses, such as climate-controlled warehouses, office buildings, and vehicle fleets.

Many environmental groups and pro-climate policymakers remain active at international, national, and especially sub-national levels seeking additional regulatory requirements to speed the transition from HFCs into the most climate-friendly substitute technologies possible.

This means the HFC transition is likely to happen well ahead of the Kigali Amendment’s phase down schedule and potentially require high levels of climate performance in any new air conditioning and refrigeration equipment – e.g., refrigerants that have 0 GWP, are non-flammable and non-toxic, do not leak, and can be recovered successfully at the end-of-life of equipment that is substantially more energy efficient than its predecessors.

To avoid undue barriers to growth and to manage current and prospective regulatory risks, by 2030 every equipment manufacturer and end user of air conditioning and refrigeration equipment must aim to complete a transition to substitute technologies that are outside the scope of these regulations.

Creating Clean Tech Solutions

Exergyn’s revolutionary solid-state refrigerant technology built on its innovative breakthroughs in shape memory alloys (SMAs) can provide a solution for manufacturers and end users of air conditioning equipment that will protect the climate and contain regulatory risk.

Exergyn’s SMA refrigerant cores are zero GWP, non-toxic, non-flammable, cannot leak, and open new possibilities for leaps forward in energy efficiency. A sustainable product for a circular economy, the cores are so durable they can outlast the equipment in which they are used and be re-used in new equipment.

Most importantly, Exergyn’s technology is outside the scope of the fast-growing web of laws and regulations facing manufacturers rushing to provide climate-friendly cooling solutions for a rapidly warming world.

A close-up of a machine.
This image is outlining the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, which focus on eliminating poverty, achieving gender equality, and protecting the environment.