A new report states that obsolete and inefficient room air conditioners, many containing ozone-depleting R22, are being dumped in Africa.
The report, released in advance of World Refrigeration Day at the end of June 2020, notes that as much as 35% of the room air conditioners sold in many of Africa’s largest countries are low efficiency units, and approximately half of these contain R22, commonly identified as Freon.
R22 was originally introduced in the 1950s, however, contributes significantly to the depletion of the Earth’s ozone layer. The Montreal Protocol identified it as one of the worst refrigerants, and from 2003 its phase-out began. From 2010 onwards, R22’s production was prohibited and only maintenance and servicing associated with R22 was considered acceptable.
Environmentally Harmful Dumping of Inefficient and Obsolete Air Conditioners in Africa, is published by the Collaborative Labelling and Appliance Standards Programme (CLASP), an international non-profit organisation promoting increased energy efficiency standards, and the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development (IGSD).
The report looks at the extent of the dumping problem across ten countries in North, West, East, and Southern Africa – Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Ghana, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, and South Africa – that account for 96% of the continent’s RAC market.
It is said that 650,000 units are being imported annually to African countries that do not meet common efficiency standards above EER 3.0W/W (COP of 3), though their manufacturing countries — including China, Japan, South Korea, and the United States — maintain standards well above 3.0W/W.
In addition, 47% of RAC sales in the 10 African focus countries are of units still using R22, with a market size of about 800,000 units. Most of the remainder of overall sales in the ten countries use R410A, with a very small percentage of lower GWP R32 RACs sold exclusively in South Africa.
“With energy demand growing across the continent, addressing environmental dumping issues would not only help countries achieve progress on their climate action goals, but would also help to ensure that African consumers gain access to affordable, high-quality appliances,” said Rebecca Schloemann, the lead author from CLASP.
Tad Ferris, senior counsel for the IGSD, and a fellow lead author of the paper described the inefficient ACs as “energy vampires”, that were sucking up vital energy needed to recover from the pandemic and economic slowdown. Stopping environmental dumping and switching markets to efficient and climate-friendly cooling is essential in a warming world where heat and humidity extremes may soon exceed levels suitable for human survival,” he added.
A quarter of the low-efficiency RACs containing obsolete refrigerants were imported from non-African companies. Three-quarters were assembled in Africa by either local subsidiaries of non-African companies, joint ventures between smaller African assemblers and large, non-African RAC, or wholly independent African RAC assemblers.
A large portion (82%) of the R22 units are assembled locally, half of which come from joint ventures between local Egyptian or Nigerian assemblers and international Asian companies. China is the largest source of imported R22 RACs (57%), followed by Egypt (11%), the US (3%), Nigeria (1.6%), and South Korea (0.6%).
The report maintains that the low-efficiency RACs put extra strain on governments’ and consumers’ budgets. Customers pay higher electricity bills and countries pay more for electricity generation facilities, imported fuel, and electricity transmission and distribution infrastructure.
The additional problem of environmental dumping of air conditioning products with obsolete refrigerants increases future demand for these damaging refrigerants at a time when they will be expensive or unavailable in some markets, creating incentive for illegal chemical manufacture and trade.
It calls on policymakers to halt environmental dumping and encourage a transition to higher efficiency, low GWP RACs through a number of recommended policies including ratification of the Kigali Amendment.
It also calls for the implementation of energy efficiency policies consistent with major countries of export, a revision of RAC tariffs to ensure compatibility with energy efficiency goals and a ban on the import of second hand, refurbished, and inefficient RACs.