More than 130 countries, accounting for about 83% of the world’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, have committed to achieving net-zero emissions by the middle of the century, according to the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Included are the United Arab Emirates and Oman, which have set 2050 net-zero target dates, and Bahrain, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia with plans to reach net zero by 2060.
Many large regional corporations and affiliates of international companies have decided not to wait for the coming wave of regulatory requirements. As responsible corporate citizens, they recognise the importance of reducing their environmental impact and meeting the high expectations of investors, employees and customers.
The formidable task of mapping a company’s path to net zero and identifying, assessing and prioritising decarbonisation strategies often falls on the shoulders of the Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO). CSOs manage their organisations’ environmental, social and governance (ESG) impacts, engage with internal and external stakeholders, and measure and report the results to regulators and others.
Striving to reduce Scope 1, 2 and 3 Emissions
Regardless of industry, most CSOs focus first on strategies to reduce the size of their company’s operational GHG footprint, which means addressing the Scope 1 emissions created by their direct operations. They also need to measure and report Scope 2 indirect emissions resulting from purchased energy, which can be reduced through various energy efficiency measures. Finally, companies must account for Scope 3 emissions, which are outside their direct control and include the entire value chain.
The challenge CSOs face is finding the right mix of strategies and initiatives to deliver the biggest possible return for their ESG investment, which enables the company to pursue game-changing environmental improvements and harvest decarbonisation opportunities in the “low-hanging fruit” category.
For example, adopting a more effective approach to space cooling, process cooling and product refrigeration requires a relatively small investment but can deliver enormous environmental and energy efficiency benefits.
With their extensive range of responsibilities, CSOs cannot be expected to also be air conditioning experts, so they may not be aware of the ongoing evolution in HVAC technologies. The combination of higher-efficiency AC equipment and the transition to next-generation, ultra-low-GWP refrigerants is an easy and cost-efficient way to decarbonise without sacrificing process integrity, energy efficiency or cooling performance, which is so essential to life in the Middle East.
The road to reducing emissions by up to 99.9%
Energy consumption and GHG emissions from space cooling, process cooling and product refrigeration have grown exponentially over the last several decades. These activities now account for more than 10% of global GHG emissions, a number that will continue to rise due to our warming climate, growing economies, expanding populations and increasing urbanisation.
The hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants now used in almost all the world’s air conditioning and refrigeration systems are the main culprit in the sector’s ever-expanding environmental footprint. HFCs are potent greenhouse gases linked to global warming, so most countries have pledged to do away with them under the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol.
New-generation hydrofluoroolefin (HFO) refrigerants are ready-now replacements for HFCs. The transition to HFO refrigerants is already underway in the European Union and United States, so CSOs in the Middle East will be able to leverage their experiences to deploy ultra-low-GWP refrigerants in this region.
HFOs reduce GHG emissions by as much as 99.9%, compared to legacy HFC refrigerants. HFOs also have zero ozone-depleting potential and a short atmospheric life, which further reduces their environmental impact. They also are more energy efficient than conventional refrigerants, which can have a significant impact on an organisation’s Scope 2 emissions and monthly electric bill.
Ultra-low-GWP choices for cooling, refrigeration
HFO refrigerants are a near drop-in replacement for high-GWP refrigerants currently used in most AC systems. This means they can be used with only minor modifications to system hardware. In addition to their use in building cooling systems, HFOs are used as refrigerants for supermarket freezers and refrigerators, mobile air conditioning for cars and trucks, blowing agents for thermal insulation, propellants for personal and household products and as solvents for cleaning solutions.
To cite a few examples,
· Saudi Arabia-based appliance manufacturer, Al-Essa Industrial Company has adopted an ultra-low-GWP liquid-blowing agent to apply insulation in its products, which meet energy standards in Saudi Arabia and other countries.
· Organic Foods and Café, a Dubai-based grocery retailer, is retrofitting its stores with an HFO blend that offers a GWP 68% below legacy HFC refrigerants.
· Pure Harvest Smart Farms is using a lower-GWP refrigerant to cool its indoor produce farm in Al Ain, enabling the company to meet the latest standards and deliver fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables to consumers.
· Companies in the UAE have avoided about 42,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions per year by transitioning to HFO refrigerants in their chiller systems.
CSOs play a critical role as Midde East-based companies look for ways to achieve their decarbonisation objectives, comply with current and emerging standards and regulations, and deliver air conditioning and refrigeration capabilities to their customers, employees and visitors.
Progress can be accelerated by moving sustainability discussions from the boardroom to the operational level and considering the environmental impact of every decision. Companies can also expand relationships with like-minded partners, stakeholders and suppliers who share the firm’s net-zero vision and can contribute to its achievement.
The writer may be contacted at Amir.Naqvi@Honeywell.com