There has been plenty of fiery debate surrounding the release of an Options Paper by the Federal Government as part of its review of the Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas Management Act.

As part of the consultation process, industry were invited to respond to the Options Paper by November 16, 2015 with the government planning to release its final report in early 2016.

A key focus of the review is to examine ways to further reduce emissions from synthetic gases. This is in addition to looking at ways to reduce regulatory compliance costs for business.

When Environment Minister Greg Hunt announced the review in May 2015, he said Australia has met or exceeded all of its phase-out obligations under the Montreal Protocol. In fact, Australia will largely phaseout  imports of HCFCs by 2016, four years ahead of schedule.

"The review will provide investment and regulatory certainty for industry over the next 20 years,” Hunt said.

"A number of options have been put forward by business that support the government’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26-28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.

"These options will also contribute to Australia’s current target to reduce emissions to five per cent below 2000 levels by 2020.” And while Australian industry has embraced a HFC-phasedown, there are other areas of the review that have divided industry opinion.

Refrigerants Australia (RA) and the Australian Refrigeration Association (ARA) have been quick to welcome a HFC-phasedown but that’s where agreement ends between the two organisations.

Although four options are presented in the paper, the government has clearly stated that each option was created to facilitate discussion, they are not formal recommendations. The options range from minimal reform to a high level of reform to achieve maximum emission reduction.

RA executive director Greg Picker said there is no requirement for industry to select a single option. However, he said RA favours a combination of option three and four. “The government has worked hard to ensure there has been plenty of consultation,” he said.

“The technical working group has been involved throughout the entire process and industry helped develop the initital terms of reference. We welcome a phasedown of HFCs, that has been our position since the year 2007. In fact, we recognise that there are more opportunities to reduce emissions.”

Picker said RA is keen to see end-user licensing strengthened, particularly compliance, so that the Australian Refrigeration Council (ARC) can be more effective. He said another concern is safety.

"More action is required by government to ensure the safe use of hydrocarbons,” Picker said. “Right now hydrocarbons are being used to retrofit equipment that is not designed for its use.”

Picker said RA represents a broad range of companies that import, sell and use hydrocarbons, ammonia and carbon dioxide, as well as synthetic refrigerants.

One industry group that has been particularly vocal throughout the consultation process and critical of the government’s response to the ozone review is the ARA. The organisation’s president, Tim Edwards, said that not enough is being done to facilitate the transition to natural refrigerants.

"There is a huge amount of work to be done, especially when it comes to training and preparing the workforce for an entirely new refrigerant landscape,” he said.

"This is particularly true when it comes to training, an area that is critical to ensure the HVACR industry can safely move forward.

"We welcome a HFC-phasedown but we need to be ready to take the next step and that means developing policy to accommodate HFC alternatives, specifically naturals,” Edwards explained.

"The review has very little to say about training and the HVACR workforce; this is despite the central role it plays in the impact of this review and the future performance of our industry."

Edwards said the review perpetuates the myth that hydrocarbon refrigerants are more flammable than synthetic refrigerants.

"Put simply, the proposed options favour the synthetic refrigerants industry which isn’t surprising as it’s an industry that generates $18 billion per annum in revenue worldwide," he said.

"The synthetics industry has a lot to lose if HFCs are replaced by natural refrigerants.” 

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