Australian Refrigeration Association (ARA) president, Tim Edwards, delivers his verdict on the industry infighting surrounding Prime including the best way forward.
The following organisations will no longer participate in Prime. They are Refrigerants Australia, Refrigerant Reclaim Australia,(RRA), Air-Conditioning & Refrigeration Equipment Manufacturers Association of Australia (AREMA), Consumer Electronics Suppliers Association (CESA), and the Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Contractors Association (RACCA).
How should we interpret this action, what are the implications?
In the absence of government initiative Prime was proposed as a way to gain consensus on matters of importance to the industry and its clients – pretty much everyone. The central premise of Prime was the valid recognition that the industry was and is highly fragmented by sector, by geography, by refrigerant and therefore lacking a basis for collaboration.
Prime was intended to serve the national interest in improving the performance of the HVACR industry and its clients.
Prime was initially established to enable collaboration of the entire industry to “Transition to Low Emissions.” In its development it established a substantial level of participation from peak bodies in the industry but also end user organisations and government. AIRAH has worked long and hard to establish this collaboration including funding that was denied by the resigning organisations.
It subsequently adopted a series of objectives that went well beyond the objective of emissions reduction. The purpose of Prime effectively became to enable collaboration across the HVACR industry for all of the purposes that the PRIME secretariat endorsed.
It is important to note that the resigning organisations are also Australian Refrigeration Council members (CESA is not an ARC member).
Among the Prime resignations RA, RRA, AREMA and RACCA are considered particularly influential on the ARC Board based on their financial strength, and their role in the HVACR industry (e.g. RRA as the manager of refrigerant destruction). Approximately 75 per cent of ARC members represent the leaders of the synthetic refrigerants industry.
The ARC’s 13 members can been found at this link: (https://www.arctick.org/information/about-arc/arc-members). By definition they represent the commercial interests of those entities with the most to lose as a result of the global HFC phase-down agreed to by 194 nations in Kigali, in October 2016.
Apparently these organisations do not want to contribute to industry collaboration and by implication do not see industry consensus as contributing to the national interest. Apparently the national interest and their commercial interest are not aligned.
The implications include:
1. For the first time it is absolutely clear to an objective observer that the peak bodies that represent the interests of the synthetic refrigerants suppliers and users have a very different purpose than many other participants in the industry. It is not the national interest.
2. This action calls into question the degree of their control and influence over the ARC. While the ARC is supposed to independently administer the HVACR trade licensing scheme and promote the interests of the whole HVAC&R industry, the high degree of synthetic refrigerant interest in ARC and the absence of other industry representatives in ARC is clearly detrimental to these objectives.
3. The amendments to the Montreal Protocol and Australia’s commitment to these changes, calling for far greater use of low GWP refrigerants, raises a fundamental question – does ARC have the right membership, board of directors and strategy to serve the national interest. This reality also raises the question of the role of the ARC in relation to the Federal Department of the Environment.
4. There is a way forward for PRIME, but it will lack the breadth it needs to truly achieve industry collaboration and consensus unless it makes considerable efforts to engage with the many other interested parties, particularly the trade and end user organisations. Governments will pay attention.
The Department of the Environment (DoE) and the federal government needs to examine how they intend to address the issues and the implications for ARC, including the question of fully engaging with the amendments to the Montreal Protocol and meeting the international commitments that follow from the ratification of COP 21.
The objective of the latter is carbon neutrality by 2050 or in less than 35 years from now – a very tall order indeed when considering Australia’s current level of preparedness for such a challenge.