HFCs: A growing threat to the climate
Updated Version, December 2009

December 11, 2009

The worst greenhouse gases you've never heard of...

Download document

Executive summary: As governments grapple with the urgent task of drastically cutting greenhouse gas emissions to avert dangerous climate change, there is a group of little-known but very powerful greenhouse gases which, if left unchecked, could hinder all of our efforts to tackle the issue.

We use these chemicals in our everyday lives for refrigeration and air-conditioning: they cool our drinks, our cars and our buildings.

They are man-made fluorinated greenhouse gases – commonly known as F-gases.

The most commonly-known f-gases are the early, so-called first generation F-gases: the CFCs that destroyed the ozone layer and were banned by the Montreal Protocol. However, in the race to save the ozone layer, the use of their second generation cousins was accelerated: HCFCs, now also banned under the Montreal Protocol. Our focus in this report is on the third generation of f-gases: HFCs are powerful greenhouse gases developed by the chemical industry to solve the ozone crisis, but if used as substitutes for all the ozone-destroying chemicals they were designed to replace, could also end up in the atmosphere and have a devastating impact on the climate.

That’s the bad news…the good news is that there are tried-and-tested environmentally safer technologies to meet today’s needs. The time to implement these technologies is now, because developing countries are just now in the process of making technological choices for replacing HCFCs. The world is at a crossroads: we can go for HFCs and commit ourselves to catastrophic climate change, or we can go for environmentally-friendly alternatives and save the planet billions of tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions.

Updated Version, 3 December 2009
We profiled the environmental strategies of 18 corporations that use HFCs to see how they are approaching this significant part of their carbon footprint. While some of them have made steps towards going HFC-free, the recent actions of three of them merits special mention: the UK supermarket chains Sainsbury’s and Marks & Spencer have committed to going HFC-free in all their new supermarkets by the summer of 2010. Meanwhile, Coca-Cola has committed to going HFC-free in all its new vending machines and coolers by 2015.

There is now no excuse for other supermarkets and corporations not to do the same.

Num. pages: 28

We Need Your Voice. Join Us!

Want to learn more about tax-deductible giving, donating stock and estate planning?

Visit Greenpeace Fund, a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) charitable entity created to increase public awareness and understanding of environmental issues through research, the media and educational programs.