Companies, NGOs and International Organizations Join Forces to Fight Climate Change

July 6, 2010

Today marks a historical milestone as the Coca-Cola Company, Unilever, McDonald's and key players join forces to promote innovative ways to fight global warming and ozone layer depletion resulting from commercial refrigeration. The initiative is supported by Greenpeace and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).

The "Refrigerants, Naturally" conference, held in Brussels, calls on industry players to join Coca-Cola, Unilever and McDonald's initiative to address an issue that affects every one of us - climate change.  The conference is an important step to bringing together the food and drink industry, its supply chain, international organizations and NGOs, to reduce the global environmental impact of commercial refrigeration.  It is the first time such a group has met on such a scale.

Coca-Cola, Unilever Ice Cream and McDonald's, who between them operate 12 million coolers and freezers, have been developing with their suppliers over the last four years, innovative, HFC-free refrigeration technologies that reduce the global warming impact of their commercial equipment.  HFCs are gases that have strong global warming potential.  According to independent research unveiled at the event by Greenpeace, if current trends were to continue in the industry, HFC's contribution to global warming would increase from 1.5 percent today to between 6.2 and 8.6 percent by 2050.(1)   

The three companies and their suppliers have developed and are actively deploying and testing, innovative, HFC-free refrigeration technologies that reduce global warming as well as energy usage. The technologies, which are explained and showcased at today's event, include hydrocarbons, carbon dioxide, Stirling, thermoacoustic and solar cooling.  Developments and tests confirm that these technologies, while at different stages of commercial availability, are viable, efficient and reliable.  Other options are also being explored.  

The companies' research and development efforts are accompanied with clear commitments to move to an HFC-free, commercially viable and more energy efficient future.  Although technical challenges and the state of progress differ across the technologies, the companies have already initiated or are prepared for commercial roll-out in the imminent future.  Whereas technologies like hydrocarbon and carbon dioxide are already, or will soon be operating in the marketplace, others need further development and optimization.  Commercial availability of Stirling is likely to be for the medium term and thermoacoustics for the long term.

Furthermore, Coca-Cola, Unilever and McDonald's are precipitating change in refrigeration technology buying and supplier trends, and call upon other businesses within the industry to join their initiative. The companies depend on refrigeration manufacturers to supply them with the equipment they need and today they urge them to share their innovations and to work together to supply them with the quantities they need in a commercially viable way.  

Greenpeace Executive Director, Gerd Leipold, said:

"Greenpeace welcomes the commitments made by Unilever, Coca Cola and McDonald's. We call on other companies in their sector to follow suit.  However, corporate action is only half of the picture. For a complete solution, governments must act.  Politicians cannot sit back and wait for the market to deliver, because on its own, it will not."

Pieter van Geel, Dutch State Secretary for Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment said:

"Sustainable innovation delivers significant economic benefits, by making more efficient use of materials and energy, and by generating fewer emissions and less waste. Since the EU does not have low wages and cheap resources, we have to compete globally by being innovative. Eco-efficient innovation is good not only for the environment, but also for economic growth and employment."

Rajendra Shende, Head of Energy and OzonAction Branch, United Nations Environment Programme said:

"As market leaders in their respective areas, Coca-Cola, Unilever and McDonald's are taking an important step in addressing environmental issues by simultaneously protecting the ozone layer and safeguarding the global climate system in an integrated way.  The future of sustainable refrigeration lies in this type of forward-looking technology innovation."

Notes: (1) The independent research was conducted by the Oekorecheche Institute, Frankfurt, June 2004 using data provided by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and UNEP. The Oekorecherche Institute is one of the most acknowledged in the area of CFCs and HFCs.

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