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China’s Actions to Promote Low-GWP Alternatives: The 27th China Refrigeration Exhibition

In its 13th Five-Year Plan for National Economic and Social Development, China announced to the world that green development will be high on its agenda for the next five years. The “green” concept was prominently discussed in the economic and social development section of the five-year plan. The plan dedicates seven chapters to the environment, and proposes 19 major projects to conserve energy, protect the environment, and restore ecological balance in China. Chapter 46 of the plan discussed three major areas that China will focus on to adapt to and mitigate climate change. China has committed to controlling CO2 emissions so they peak by 2030 if not before. During the next five years, China also will “bring non-CO2 GHG emissions under control.” China also promised to “undertake international obligations and fulfill commitments to take stronger actions against climate change.”

China is sending strong signals of its support for transitions from HCFCs and HFCs to natural refrigerant technologies. In the First Catalogue of Recommended Substitutes for HCFCs, which was issued in February 2016, China listed natural, HFC-free, low global warming potential (GWP) alternatives as the only substitutes it will support and accept from Chinese industry in all but four types of equipment for the more than a dozen refrigeration and air conditioning end-uses. In addition, China will soon release its Stage 2 HCFC Phase-out Management Plan (HPMP) which will reduce its consumption of HCFCs to 35 percent below its original baseline. According to the Foreign Economic Cooperation Office (FECO), China will choose natural refrigerant or low-GWP alternatives in sectors such as room air conditioning, industrial and commercial refrigeration and air conditioning, extruded polystyrene foam, polyurethane foam, and solvents in Stage II (R718). China will also support the use of CO2 in different sectors such as heat pump water heaters and cold storage.

China has taken several actions to implement these policies to control HFC emissions and to avoid transitions to HFCs or HFC blends. Domestically, at China’s 27th International Refrigeration Expo, organized by China Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Industry Association (CRAA), many products were on exhibition that use natural or low GWP alternatives. GREE, Haier, and other companies showcased their hydrocarbon (R-290) air-conditioners, while others featured CO2 heat pumps. Haier also launched its first invert R290 air conditioner at the expo. The second day of the CRAA expo included roundtable discussions with experts from around the world, sharing proposed policy changes, alternative technologies, and standards with more than 1,000 registered exhibitors. EIA’s own Mark W. Roberts presented to explain the importance of updating international and national standards in order to bring HFC-free, energy efficient equipment to the global market. EIA’s Jill Thomson also presented on the implementation of the European Union F-gas Regulations and the obligations and opportunities they pose for Chinese businesses.

Internationally, the Chinese government and Chinese industry have been actively participating in national and international standard setting to modernize standards which will open markets for alternative low-GWP technologies. In the past year, GREE, Midea, and Haier have all submitted applications to join the International Electrotechnical Committee (IEC) and Underwriting Laboratories (UL) standard setting bodies in hopes of opening international and U.S. markets to their air conditioners and other equipment using HFC-free technologies. It seems that China will continue to advance its “green” strategy over the next five years and produce the next generation of refrigeration and air conditioning equipment containing HFC-free and energy efficient refrigerants.

As parties to the Montreal Protocol have concluded meetings of the Open-Ended Working Group, China’s movement to transition to low-GWP alternatives will bolster momentum to adopt a global phase-down of HFCs at the Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol later this year. EIA hopes China will continue to play a leading role in the development of HFC-free alternatives, which will maximize the mitigation that the phase-down delivers and do the most possible to close the pre-2020 gigtatonne mitigation gap.