Cool It! urges supermarkets to cut extremely harmful HFC emissions:
and we’re starting with Walmart.
Sign the petition here
Appliances we use to keep cool are leaking gases that warm our atmosphere at a shocking rate.
Refrigerators and air conditioning units humming along are easy to overlook...but substances called refrigerants that are used in these appliances to keep things cool are melting the ice caps.
Refrigerants transform from liquid to gas and back continually as they cycle through coils in appliances, absorbing heat and promoting cooling. Unfortunately, the most common refrigerants are greenhouse gases called hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which are intensifying the climate crisis.
A few decades ago, CFCs (short for chlorofluorocarbons) were used as refrigerants, but they were damaging the ozone layer. In the 1980s, people worldwide successfully urged the phase out of CFCs through policy to protect the ozone. The common replacement for CFCs were HFCs because they don’t deplete the ozone, but they are contributing to climate change at extremely high rates.
HFCs have up to 9,000 times more warming power than CO2.
This harmful, man-made gas is the fastest increasing greenhouse gas entering our atmosphere. As we do the critical work of cutting CO2 emissions, we must address these shorter-lived, extremely potent HFC emissions.
Project Drawdown identifies better refrigerant management (such as using sustainable refrigerant alternatives and reducing appliance leaks) as the top solution to address climate change.
It's estimated that improving these practices and eliminating HFCs can cut nearly 90 gigatons of emissions that are causing the climate crisis.
Climate change is a global crisis that is actively harming communities and ecosystems and threatening hundreds of millions of lives. This devastation will only escalate unless we act.
Improving refrigerant practices is a concrete step to cut dangerous greenhouse gases, but the US is lagging far behind on this issue, despite emitting the most HFCs of any country.
In 2016, over 170 countries agreed to the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, which aims to phase out HFCs starting in 2019. But the US has not ratified the Amendment, despite support from the refrigerants industry and bipartisan members of Congress. The Trump Administration has also worked to scale back HFC rules to limit emissions from leaks enacted under President Obama.
Some state governments have stepped up to address emissions from refrigerants by setting policy goals, despite lack of leadership from the White House. Among state leaders are California, Connecticut, Maryland, and New York, which have announced plans to continue phasing out the use of HFC-based refrigerants. But state initiatives alone will not be enough. Ratifying Kigali would require the US to begin phasing out HFCs this year with the goal to achieve 85 percent reduction by 2036.
Appliance leaks and irresponsible disposal of refrigerants release HFCs and other dangerous substances, including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), mercury, and oils.
The EPA has proposed revising its refrigerant regulations, which would significantly undercut current regulations, including no longer requiring that leaks be monitored and repaired, among other significant changes.
With these barriers to policy action, we need companies releasing HFCs to address their emissions... which leads us to supermarkets.
Climate Impacts of Supermarkets
Supermarkets use a lot of energy, and up to 60 percent is used for cooling and heating systems. But the largest climate impacts come from the refrigerants themselves.
A typical supermarket consumes 4,000 pounds of refrigerants each year with a quarter leaking out due to faulty systems.
The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) reports that refrigerant leaks from US supermarkets emit 45 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent every year (the equivalent of 9.5 million cars on the road).
To address this issue, companies must commit to:
- Phasing out HFC refrigerants,
- Regular monitoring and repairing of refrigerant leaks,
- And ensuring responsible refrigerant disposal to reduce emissions.
A few supermarkets have made commitments to tackle HFCs but far too many are lagging.
Why We’re Starting with Walmart
Walmart is one of the world’s largest retailers, but it’s coming up short on refrigerant practices. The company’s annual HFC emissions are over 2.8 million metric tons, or the energy equivalent of powering all the households in San Francisco.
Walmart's sustainability initiatives say that it’s “transitioning away” from refrigerants with high global warming potential but it has not released concrete goals on making this a reality in all stores (read more on these claims here).
Walmart has failed to honor past agreements to address HFCs, even though they make up nearly half of the company’s total direct emissions.
Walmart has known the urgency of this issue for years but has not taken serious steps to put its words into action. We’re calling on Walmart to finally develop a plan to cut these harmful super pollutants from its stores.
How to Take Action