Global cooling

From the September 2015 issue.

With the rise of an environmentally conscious cold economy and growing market potential in the emerging world, things are rapidly heating up in the refrigerated transport market.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is getting serious about the phase-out of greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change, especially so-called hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).

Last month, the Agency finalised a rule that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 64 million tonnes over the coming decade, with a special focus on HFCs and HFC-containing blends that are used in retail food refrigeration, foam blowing and commercial vehicle air conditioning – putting the refrigeration technology industry under more pressure than ever to make mobile cooling more sustainable.

“[The EPA’s] action delivers on the President’s Climate Action Plan and the administration’s commitment to acting on climate,” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy commented on the Agency’s globally publicised foray. “This rule will not only reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions, but also encourage greater use and development of next generation … HFC alternatives.”

But it’s not just President Obama’s new Climate Action Plan that is pushing the issue to the top of the agenda. The UK Carbon Trust is equally insistent on acting quickly, stating in March that global demand for cooling could grow to three times the current UK electricity capacity by 2030 – mainly due to the world’s expanding population and a growing middle class demographic in emerging markets like China and India.

“It is estimated that up to half of the perishable food in developing countries rots before ever reaching the market, largely due to the absence of cold chains,” says Professor Richard Williams, Head of Engineering and Physical Sciences at the University of Birmingham – adding the combined food wastage would occupy a land area the size of Mexico, consumes 250 km3 of water per year, and accounts for up to 3.3 billion tonnes of global carbon production.

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