The EIA yesterday (16 September) called on India to ban the use of HFCs with a global warming potential higher than 1,000 in new refrigeration equipment in multinational food and beverage retailers from 1 January 2018. Meanwhile the Indian government has launched an R&D programme to support natural refrigerants.
Multinational fast-food chains operating in India should lead this HFC emission reduction effort, the NGO further argued.
The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) report – entitled ‘Transitioning HFCs in India: The Opportunity for Climate Friendly Cooling in the Fast Food Industry’ – looked at the HFC emissions in India of American companies McDonald’s, Starbucks, Subway and Dunkin’ Donuts, as well as Indian-based companies Café Coffee Day and Hindustan Unilever – a subsidiary of Anglo-Dutch giant Unilever.
If current practices continue, the eight fast food chains covered in the report alone could add the equivalent of nearly one million tons of carbon emissions by 2020. Eliminating their HFC emissions from refrigeration would prevent the release into the atmosphere of 970,000 metric tonnes of CO2 equivalent – equal to the annual emissions of 205,000 cars.
Government launches R&D programme to boost natural refrigerants
The publication of the EIA report followed the 15 September launch by India’s Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) of a collaborative R&D programme to develop natural refrigerant technologies “as alternatives to ozone-depleting HFCs”.
"By establishing an effective collaboration between all important stakeholders, the initiative is focused on prioritising areas of research in new refrigerant technologies and natural refrigerants. This shall also assist the country to leapfrog from the current technology of high-GWP HFCs to technologies with lower climate impact," said the Indian environment ministry.
The programme will be led by the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), a research body.
“Developing countries like India are expected to join a global HFC phase-down, and it behooves multinational corporations to do their part for the climate,” said Avipsa Mahapatra, the EIA’s global climate campaign director.
“With climate-friendly, cost-effective technologies already available, these companies have no excuse to rely on super greenhouse gases. We call on these companies to recognise the enormous potential for emissions reductions in India by reducing their refrigeration footprint, and publicly commit to not install HFC-based equipment in their new stores from 2019,” Mahapartra said.
CSE calls on India to adopt natural refrigerants
Responding to the EIA report, Chandra Bhushan, deputy director-general of the New-Dehli based Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), an environmental NGO, said: “Big American companies such as Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and McDonald’s are not doing anything to cut down on emissions on HFCs [in India].”
CSE is advocating for India to move to non-patented and energy-efficient natural refrigerants like hydrocarbons and CO2 as alternatives to HFCs. Bhusan warns of “a concerted effort by two American multinational companies” to sell synthetic chemicals instead. “These are protected by Intellectual Property Rights and therefore very expensive,” he says.
The Indian fast food industry is expected to grow from $15 billion in size to more than $50 billion over the next five years. McDonald’s, for example, currently has over 350 restaurants in India, a number which is increasing rapidly. However, the fast-food giant is yet to transition to climate-friendly alternatives to HFCs in India.
In Europe, McDonald’s has installed over 13,500 pieces of HFC-free equipment since 2010 and has piloted an entirely HFC-free store. Subway, the largest fast food chain by store count in the world, uses hydrocarbons in back-counter chillers in the United Kingdom and Ireland, but has not stated any intent to go HFC-free in India.