Innovation, Ambition and Precaution

Marco Mancini, National Scientific Office of Legambiente
Marco Mancini, National Scientific Office of Legambiente

The passwords that guide the new-born Italian Working Group on Green Refrigeration, Conditioning and Heating, coordinated by Legambiente together with the first eight companies (Carel, Epta, GTS special gas, Lu-Ve Group, SCM Frigo, Teon, Vulkan) that have believed in it and that in this sector can boast competence and farsighted vision of sustainability.

It is necessary that the “cold and hot sector”, due to its countless facets and increasingly indispensable uses in daily life, in transports and in industry, asks questions and finds solutions to contrast the climatic change.

Decarbonizing our economy, starting from the sectors where technologies are more mature, is a must even before a need. Starting, in particular, from those where electrification is, or is becoming, the reference standard.

According to ISPRA reports about 2021-emissions, F-gases, today used in these sectors, represent 4.4% of the overall greenhouse emissions in Italy and are strongly growing due to the use of HFC in the sectors of refrigeration, of conditioning, of heating, of fire-fighting systems and of pharmaceutical aerosols. Europe must undertake a forefront battle against climatic changes, which menace the future of next generations, but also our present under the form of more and more frequent extreme meteorological events and not only.

The Paris Agreement (2015) and the successive Kigali Amendment (2019), ask giving up F-gases in favour of natural refrigerants, but while in the rest of Europe greenhouse emissions from F-gases have been decreasing for years, on the contrary in Italy they are exponentially increasing owing to the consumption of HFC with very high greenhouse potential (from 0.4 to 16.8 million Mt in CO2 eq. from 1990 to 2019 – ISPRA, 2021).

Innovation resides in the fact that today Italy is world leader in both the production of natural refrigerants (CO2/R744, R600a and R290), and of refrigerators, commercial and industrial refrigerating cells, heat pumps and conditioning and heating technologies, which operate with the maximum energy efficiency and do not use F-gases.

The review of the European 517/2014 regulation is the Ambition that Europe must pursue together with member states and companies, because such review will precisely determine the sector climatic vision of the future, with the banning of the most climate-altering gases in applications where alternatives exist, professionals’ training and the regime of controls against illegal imports.

Instead, it seems desirable to us to apply the Precaution principle about the marketing and use of new fluids massively and as solution to the climatic issue, such as for instance HFO, whose relevance in terms of environmental impact is still under the scientific community’s study, and it must be further analysed thoroughly and studied, to avoid making the same mistakes as in the past, when imagining HFC as solution to CFC first and to HCFC afterwards, because they solved the ozone hole problem, has then caused the environmental damages that we know concerning CO2 emissions.

Still open and of extreme complexity the issue regarding the waste management in this field, both in the ambit of plants and of F-gases, about which we should wonder and take provisions in full paradigm of circular economy, facilitating the reconversion and ecologic transition processes of this strategic sector.