The Australian Parliament has passed legislation to implement a gradual phase-down of hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) imports over almost 20 years from 1 January 2018. The phase-down will result in an 85% reduction in imports (and therefore emissions) of HFCs.
HFCs are the most commonly used refrigerants both in Australia and worldwide. Refrigerants include R404a, R410a and R134a. When emitted, HFCs trap heat in the atmosphere adding to the impact on the climate. Introduction of the legislation, first announced by the Government in June 2016 and passed in June 2017, was the next step in implementing the phase-down. Australia’s phase-down leads the global phase-down agreement under the Montreal Protocol. The global phase-down was agreed in October 2016 and commits all 197 United Nations member states to phase-down imports and production of HFCs within a set timeframe. The global phase-down puts all countries on a level playing field by applying the phase-down through the Montreal Protocol on substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, to which there are 197 parties covering both developed and developing countries.
The phase-down is designed to provide a sufficient supply of HFCs for the Australian market while promoting the uptake of new, more environmentally friendly and energy efficient technologies through investment certainty for business. As the phase-down has been designed with projected demand in mind, it will encourage transition however there should not be significant price changes after 1 January 2018. Owners of long-lived HFC equipment shouldn’t be concerned about the availability of HFCs to service their equipment. The 15% residual from 2036 provides for future servicing requirements and for equipment where alternatives are not readily available.
The phase-down is a long-term policy and the effects are not expected to be felt immediately. Businesses are encouraged to learn about alternative technologies and their characteristics and to update their skills for install and servicing of next generation equipment. New equipment using a range of alternatives with no or very low global warming potential (GWP) is already available in Australia.
Australian Standards have changed and will continue to change over time to accommodate the safety hazard of alternative refrigerants. AS/NZ 5149 ‘Refrigerating systems and heat pumps – Safety
and environmental requirements’ and AS/NZ 817 ‘Refrigerants – Designation and safety classification’ were updated in 2016. International standards organisations are working to further update
these and other relevant standards.
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