Environmentalists seek harmonised standards on fridges, air conditioners

Africa should put in place harmonised standards and regulation for cooling systems such as refrigerators and air conditioners to help protect the environment from harmful gases, environmentalists have said.

They made the call on Thursday in Kigali during a session dubbed “Accelerating Africa’s Switch to Affordable, Efficient, and Clean Cooling” held at the just ended African Green Growth Forum.

The session aimed at engaging high-level policymakers and government representatives to adopt regulations that UN Environment is developing.  Rwanda will be the first country in the world to adopt the model regulations through the Rwanda Cooling Initiative (R-COOL).

UN Environment’s United for Efficiency (U4E) is implementing the project with R-COOL in partnership with the Government of Rwanda.

The programme aims to demonstrate the benefits of transitioning to energy-efficient and climate-friendly cooling products.

It is in line with the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, which seeks to protect the climate by phasing down high Global Warming Potential (GWP) gasses used in refrigerators and air conditioners.

The Kigali Amendment enters into force in January 2019 (one month after the COP24 Climate Conference in Katowice, Poland).

Opportunities for countries to align with the same regulations include creating a common market and driving prices down, controlling of ingenious ways of cross-border smuggling of banned products, increasing volume to justify investment in a test laboratory and control fake labelling and forged technical report, according to Morris Kayitare, Project Lead for the Rwanda Cooling Initiative, at UN Environment.

In addition, it improves the cooling and lighting sectors sustainably.

Among the factors that the regulation will consider, Kayitare said, is a threshold for Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS), as well as the acceptable global warming potential in gases that are used in cooling equipment.

 “This meeting intended to encourage countries in the region to take the same measures which can prevent the entry of substandard products. Second, it can help expend the market such that it is easy to influence manufacturers,” Kayitare said.

“If they know that it is not allowed to take a fridge with a given global warming potential into East Africa, the manufacturers will adjust their production to meet the community’s requirements, which cannot be easy if it’s a matter of one country alone,” he said.

Michael Kiiza, Programme Management Expert at East Africa Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency, said that lack of a similar regulation in the region was a challenge.

“Our centre will work to try to disseminate it across the region so that we harmonise regulations because we work in a common market where goods are easily moved across the borders. So, it’s very important that we have the same regulations and standards,” he said.

However, he said that the refrigerators and air conditioners that are more efficient are normally new and expensive, while most refrigerators on the market in the region are secondhand, voicing concerns over economic challenge which makes people in the region resort to used products.

Growing market, challenges

The quantity of refrigerators and air conditioners in developing and emerging economies is expected to nearly double to two billion by 2030, and the most prevalent models tend to be those with the worst performance, according to experts.

Products using outdated technology consume up to three times the amount of electricity depleting natural resources and contribute to environmental degradation.