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UK retailers embrace climate-friendly refrigeration

Chilling Facts IV reports that European counterparts ready for change, with many committing to HFC phase-outs

| | Sep 15, 2012 | 7:22 pm
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Chilling Facts IV reports that European counterparts ready for change, with many committing to HFC phase-outs

The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), a UK-based Non Governmental Organisation and charitable trust that investigates and campaigns against a wide range of environmental crimes, has announced the release of Chilling Facts IV, a report, which since its launch in 2008 has sought to encourage the retail sector to move away from refrigeration systems based on hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). Labeling them as powerful global warming gases hundreds to thousands of times more potent than carbon dioxide (CO2), the report points out that HFC emissions from commercial refrigeration in Europe equate to about 20 million tonnes of CO2 per year – that’s about one-third of Sweden’s annual greenhouse gas emissions. In this context, it reveals that climate-friendly supermarket refrigeration has gone mainstream, which signals a welcome trend. Supporting its claims, Chilling Facts IV report points out that from just 14 stores in the UK using climate-friendly refrigeration systems in 2008, 344 stores have now made the transition, with thousands of engineers trained to service them – in the process debunking efficiency myths as retailers report significant reductions in energy use compared to conventional HFC systems.

The report elaborates: Marks and Spencer, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose have been lauded for their rapid roll-out of climate-friendly refrigeration, with Waitrose now running a quarter of its estate on HFC-free systems. Discounters Aldi and Lidl have made good progress in rolling out HFC-free freezers, but have yet to do the same for chilled food.

However, the report’s authors express concern over Tesco’s apparent slowdown. The retail giant set the standard in 2009 by announcing plans for 150 HFC-free stores by 2012, but has so far managed just 60, which the report says is particularly disappointing, given that Sainsbury’s has passed the 100 HFC-free stores mark.

“As the biggest retailer in the UK, we’re concerned that Tesco is failing to meet its environmental commitments, especially as its competitors aren’t faltering in this way,” said EIA Senior Campaigner Fionnuala Walravens. “Tesco needs to speed up its roll-out of HFC-free refrigeration and make good on its promise to go HFC-free.”

But, further afield, says the report, Tesco has made some progress in going HFC-free outside the UK, with 35HFC-free stores in Hungary. However, in an apparent U-turn on its 2009 strategy to go HFC-free in new stores across the UK and Central Europe, it has recently built 60 new stores in Poland which run on an HFC refrigerant blend with a high global warming potential.

According to EIA, this year, Chilling Facts has expanded its scope to include European retailers. The timing, it says, is significant, as the European Union is currently reviewing its policy on fluorinated greenhouse gases (F-gases) and is considering phasing out HFCs, a move certain to change the face of the global commercial refrigeration.

Chilling Facts IV finds that European retailers are ready for change, with many voluntarily committing to HFC phase-outs. In addition, feedback from continental Europe indicates UK retailers are falling behind the times with their negative approach to including doors on chilled food cabinets, the report adds. It highlights that what is needed now is legislation to level the playing field and encourage reluctant retailers to take responsibility for their climate impacts.

EIA informs that Chilling Facts IV can be read and downloaded at http://ow.ly/cqNUY.

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