MP calls for end to global warming gases in supermarket fridges

July 1, 2009 at 7:25 pm Leave a comment

supermarket
by Tony Grew

Urgent action is needed to end the devastating impact of HFCs on global warming, an MP told the Commons yesterday.

Clive Efford was introducing a private member’s bill on the issue of HFCs under the ten minute rule.

He said supermarkets are responsible for more than half of all HFC emissions, but his proposal would focus on big retailers.

“I should expect smaller retailers to be required to introduce equipment that does not add to global warming when their old units need to be replaced,” he said.

“There are already many environmentally friendly alternatives for smaller supermarkets, and they generally use different refrigeration technology from the larger stores.”

Hydrofluorocarbons, are part of a group of gases known as F gases that can be up to 20,000 times more harmful in terms of global warming than carbon dioxide.

HFCs were introduced into widespread use under the Montreal protocol in the 1990s to replace chlorofluorocarbons—CFCs—and end the depletion of the ozone layer that their widespread use caused.

HFCs do not harm the ozone layer, but they are powerful global warming gases.

“In 2005, stationary refrigeration was the biggest source of F gas emissions in the UK, accounting for almost 27 per cent. within the sector,” Mr Efford said.

“HFC emissions from supermarkets account for more than half the total emissions, and direct emissions from leaking refrigerant gases can account for up to one third of a supermarket chain’s carbon footprint.

“The phasing out of HFC use in the supermarket sector by 2015 has the potential to save 175 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent between now and 2050, which is more than one quarter of the UK’s current annual greenhouse gas emissions.

“In 2005, the amount of HFC emissions leaking from supermarket refrigeration was estimated to be equivalent to 2 million tonnes of carbon dioxide.

“To put that into perspective, I should say that that equates to one person flying in a plane from London to New York more than 2.5 million times; to the production of 10 billion plastic bags; to one billion car trips to the supermarket over an average distance of 7.5 miles; to the annual carbon foot print of 200,000 people; or, to driving round the circumference of the earth 300,000 times—if that were possible.”

Mr Efford said the value of the food market as a whole in 2007 was estimated at £72.8 billion, with supermarkets accounting for more than half of grocery sales.

“This sector, even in these difficult economic times, could sustain the costs of changing from HFCs to climate-friendly carbon alternatives,” he said.

“The time to act is now.

“We are going to experience the most harmful impact on HFCs in the next 20 years, and the earlier we act to reduce their use, the greater the impact of our actions. Urgency is not just about the end users.

“Action now would send a message to manufacturers that it is time to start investing in new forms of coolants for refrigeration that do not accelerate global warming.

“That would prevent the production of more of these harmful gases and avoid their having to be stored and eventually disposed of in safety.

“I know that my Bill is unlikely to progress in the time remaining in this parliamentary Session.

“However, let me stress to the Minister that the supermarkets themselves are seeking regulation for a level playing field, and supporting this Bill could offer the opportunity to get an agreement on the way forward: something that is urgently needed.

“If the Government do not act by supporting this Bill, the responsibility will remain for them to act, and they must do so quickly.”

The bill is tabled for a second reading on Friday but has almost no chance of becoming law.

photo: robcorr@flickr.com

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