The Path to Drawdown: Refrigerant Management
Refrigerators and air conditioners contain chemical refrigerants that absorb and release heat to enable chilling. These refrigerants, particularly chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) and hydrofluorocarbon (HFC), have between 1,000 and 9,000 times greater global warming potential than carbon dioxide.
Scientists in the 1980s found that these refrigerants were responsible for depleting the ozone layer. As a result, governments adopted international treaties to phase them out. High-income countries have already started phasing out HFCs in 2019. Some low-income countries will follow suit in 2024, and others in 2028. Thanks to the availability of substitutes with much lower greenhouse gas potential like propane and ammonium, this phasing out is expected to be smooth.
Still, the stock of HFCs will keep growing until all countries stop their use. This is where refrigerant management comes into play. Refrigerant management is the recovery, recycling, and destruction of refrigerants at the end of life. Refrigerants can be purified for reuse or transformed into other chemicals that don’t exacerbate global warming. And since 90% of refrigerant emissions happen at the end of their life, those currently in circulation need to be properly disposed of.