Production of more environmentally friendly Greenfreeze refrigerators in China.
When the dramatic discovery of the ozone hole in 1986 forced the
banning of Chlorofluorocarbons (CFC's), the refrigeration industry
switched to hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). While this stopped depletion
of the ozone layer, it meant introducing a new potent greenhouse
gas. It was an environmental case of "out of the frying pan into
To highlight the madness of this switch and show how it should
be done we launched the concept of Greenfreeze in 1992. We met two
scientists who pointed out how to avoid HFC's altogether. We found
an old fridge factory, appealed to our supporters to pre-order
enough units to finance a refit, helped build the market and
Greenfreeze was born.
It uses natural gases so avoids both depleting the ozone layer
and fuelling global warming. The chemical industry said it would
never work and the big refrigeration users lined up with their
friends in the industry to dismiss our claims.
Today there are over 100 million Greenfreeze refrigerators in
the world, produced by all the major European, Chinese, Japanese
and Indian manufacturers. It is now available in most major markets
with the exception of North America.
While Greenfreeze technology gradually gained a foothold in the
domestic market in the late 1990's, large commercial users
continued to use refrigeration that causes global warming. In the
run up to the Sydney Olympics in 2000 we targeted big refrigeration
users such as Unilever, Coke and McDonalds, all Olympic sponsors,
to live up to the guidelines of the green games which excluded
Coke caved in after being faced with a concerted internet campaign
before the 2000 Olympics to buy green refrigeration for new units.
Before the start of the games all three companies announced phase
out plans for damaging refrigeration technologies by the time of
the 2004 Olympics.
Now these companies have announced more concrete plans for how
to phase out HFC's. Our Executive Director, Gerd Leipold welcomed
the announcement: "Greenpeace welcomes the commitments made by
Unilever, Coca-Cola and McDonald's. We call on their competitors,
such as Nestle, Pepsi and Burger King, to follow suit. But
corporate action is only half the picture. For a complete solution,
governments must act. Politicians can't sit back and wait for the
market to deliver, because on its own, it won't."
Despite this good news the trend is looking bleak. Left
unchecked, by 2050 HFC's will do as much damage to the climate as
the traffic fumes of all the world's passenger cars.
To force all companies and industry to meet the high standards
of these three companies effective government regulation is the
Worryingly even the current ineffective regulation of HFC's is
under attack. American industry is leading the charge for wider use
of HFC's in uses such as car air conditioners. Ford motor company
is one example of a pro-HFC's corporation. Like the US chemicals
industries meddling in new European Union chemical law, the
"European" industry lobby group for HFC's was actually set up in US
state of Virginia.
The way ahead
If companies like McDonalds, Unilever and Coca Cola, who are far
from 'all round environmental angels', can go HFC free then there
is no reason why their competitors cannot follow their lead. It
also exposes the lies and misinformation spread by irresponsible
industry lobbying. Goverments should follow the progressive stance
of these three companies and adopt an immediate phase-out of