Australia will curb HFC emissions by 85% by 2036, the government announced on 27 June, joining the United States, the European Union and Japan as a "world leader" in reducing HFC emissions.
Australian Environment Minister Greg Hunt originally announced the review of the ‘Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas Management’ (OPSGGM) programme in May 2014, with an options paper released after public consultation outlining a ‘strong preference’ for a hardline stance on phasing down HFCs.
In accordance with the government’s long-awaited decision, a legislative phase-down of HFC imports will be applied from January 2018 and will reduce HFC emissions by 85% by 2036.
The government's announcement states that the phase-down is even more ambitious than the amendment proposal for a global HFC phase-down currently being discussed under the international Montreal Protocol framework. It has a lower baseline, reflecting Australia’s current demand, and has more frequent reduction steps.
“Australia will be a world leader in reducing HFC emissions, joining the United States, the European Union and Japan in taking early action to reduce HFC emissions,” the outcome of the OPSGGM review doument reads.
The outcome review has been well received by industry bodies, including the Australian Institute of Refrigeration Air Conditioning and Heating (AIRAH), who say it will provide the Australian HVAC&R sector with a clear path for the future.
“Not only is such a measure pivotal to national and international efforts to reduce CO2-equivalent emissions in the face of climate change, it provides some certainty to those in the HVAC&R industry, who can now plan for and invest in new technology that will be required," said AIRAH CEO Tony Gleeson.
This is indeed a big step forward for Australia’s conservative government. The new measures are expected to reduce HFC emissions by up to 80 Mt CO2 equivalent in the period to 2030.
The government states that the phase-down has been "developed with industry which supports the phase-down, its environmental benefits and the long term investment certainty it provides."
Importantly, the amendments will "[enable] provisions for future bans on the import of new equipment containing high global warming potential HFCs... and domestic and automotive air conditioners containing high global warming potential HFCs..." Bans on specified new equipment using high-GWP HFCs was one of the four options considered in the initial options paper.
"Further, compliance provisions of the legislation will be strengthened to support emission reduction including new offence provisions, increased penalty amounts, provision for suspension of licences and publishing of compliance actions," it reads.
The Australian government will introduce legislative amendments in order to implement new measures as soon as possible. All measures will enter into force and start operating by January 2018.
In the interim, the Department of the Environment will work with businesses and state government regulators to develop information to better inform equipment owners of the benefits of ensuring proper installation of new equipment and regular equipment maintenance, including refrigerant leakage, as well as greater regulatory synergy between state and federal arrangements.
The government has promised to publish full details of the review outcome shortly.
More information can be found here: https://www.environment.gov.au/protection/ozone/publications/factsheet-opsggm-review-outcomes