“In this pivotal decade for climate action, the private sector must go beyond words and meaningfully commit to unlocking the full potential of sustainable cooling to accelerate emissions reductions,” said Avipsa Mahapatra, Climate Campaign Lead for the U.S. Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA).

This position is explained in the EIA’s newest report on the climate crisis, “Beyond Words: A Framework for Responsible Private Sector Action on Sustainable Cooling.” Mahapatra presented the report at the 58th session of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice and the Subsidiary Body for the Implementation (SB58) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), held in Bonn, Germany, June 5–15.

The full report can be found here.

“Eliminating HFCs, [which are] super potent [greenhouse gases] used primarily as refrigerants in the cooling sector, is central to achieving global climate goals,” the EIA said. The new report includes a call to adopt natural refrigerants and offers a framework for voluntary private sector commitments to achieve sustainable cooling that is “transparent, measurable, and appropriately ambitious to drive down emissions for climate action.”

The EIA expects sustainable cooling to be the major focus at the 2023 United Nations Climate Conference of Parties (COP28) held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, from November 30 to December 12. “[At COP28] countries and companies are expected to announce cooling commitments,” the EIA said.

Past commitment issues

The EIA cites the recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) showing that government contributions alone are not enough to curb GHG emissions to limit global warming to 1.5°C (2.7°F) according to the Paris Agreement.

“The scale of the climate crisis necessitates the private sector to go beyond toothless commitments,” Mahapatra said, noting that past corporate commitments included a “patchwork” of inconsistent actions, accountability, cross-comparability and measurability.

An analysis of more than 30 corporate company commitments on GHG reductions under various past initiatives, forums and resolutions from 2010 to 2016 found insufficient metrics to evaluate the commitments, said the EIA in a press release. One issue included the lack of company accountability through public reporting.

In addition, less than a quarter of cooling equipment manufacturers have set 2050 emission targets, the IEA said.

Recommended commitments

“Drawing on lessons and challenges from earlier commitments, we present a framework to encourage robust new commitments related to HFC use in the cooling sector consistent with science-based climate goals,” the EIA said in the report.

To ensure full implementation of the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol and prevent 80 billion metric tons of CO2e emissions, the EIA asks the private sector to incorporate the following elements in commitments:

  • Stop manufacturing and installing HFC-based equipment. HFC equipment installed today, often with a lifespan of 15–20 years, misses the outlined “roadmap” to cut HFC-associated emissions in half by 2030 and eliminate them by 2050.
  • Accelerate adoption of ultra-low (<5) or zero GWP alternatives. Given the breakdown of HFOs into PFAS and their GHG emissions and ozone depletion potential (ODP), EIA advocates “commitments to adopt natural refrigerants as the most environmentally sustainable and future proof [option].”
  • Address lifecycle emissions from existing HFCs and HFOs equipment. Product stewardship should include eliminating leaks, purchasing reclaimed refrigerant and supporting recovery, reclamation and proper destruction of refrigerants.
  • Stop illegal HFCs from entering the market. This includes banning non-refillable cylinders, enabling real-time tracking and traceability and sharing suspicious activities with the appropriate authorities.

Measurable and transparent

Private sector investment and actions can make vital contributions to the climate effort and yet must be developed within a framework that “aligns with science-based targets and ensures transparency and accountability for meeting commitments,” the EIA said.

All commitments should be measurable, with specific quantifiable and time-bound targets. The EIA recommends company commitments include the following:

  • Science-based targets, capturing Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions for cradle-to-grave HFC emissions.
  • Public reporting of commitments and GHG emission targets. The EIA suggests using third-party verification from programs such as the Carbon Disclosure Project to increase transparency and public confidence.
  • Annual progress report. Details should include HFC use and emission reports by volume and CO2e emissions; new equipment or facilities using ultra-low GWP natural refrigerants; improvements in lifecycle management; and verified quantities of HFC refrigerants recovered, reclaimed and destroyed.
  • Regular review of and updates to commitments based on technological advancements and evolving safety and sustainability standards.

The EIA report further breaks down commitment initiatives for manufacturers and end users, indicating that this is a “decisive decade for climate action at an unprecedented scale.”

“Corporations and governments need to go above and beyond their current paths and commit to action commensurate with the scale of our climate crisis,” the EIA said in the report.

“Commitment to adopting natural refrigerants as the most environmentally sustainable and future proof [option].”

EIA – Beyond Words Report