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OFFICIAL: Australia will begin phasing down imports of HFCs including R134a from January 1 2018, a year ahead of the schedule for developed nations set under the historic Kigali amendment to the Montreal Protocol that was agreed by 196 countries in October 2016.

The Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas Management Amendment Bill 2017 passed Parliament on Monday June 19, with bi-partisan support in both upper and lower houses.

It opens the door for new regulations to be drafted and implemented, including the potential for equipment bans that would make it illegal for cars using R134a in their air-conditioning systems to be imported.

VASA would support a European-style regulation mandating all new vehicles sold in Australia from 1 January 2020 to have a refrigerant with a global warming potential GWP of no more than 150.

Although an increasing number of new cars using R1234yf are arriving on the Australian market, some manufacturers will keep using R134a for as long as they can get away with it, to keep costs low.

With a deadline in place, repairers and their suppliers would be able to operate with more certainty and better plan their investments in equipment and training.

Consistent with the Kigali amendment, Australia’s phase-down will begin with an immediate 25 per cent reduction over baseline HFC emissions in 2018, taken from average consumption recorded between 2011 and 2013.

The Australian phase-down introduces small HFC reduction steps every two years, exceeding the targets set by the Kigali amendment until it matches these in 2029 and achieving an 85 per cent reduction target by 2036, in line with the Montreal Protocol.

Both Australian industry and the federal opposition have welcomed the phase-down becoming law.

In his capacity as president of the Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Equipment Manufacturers of Australia (AREMA), Sanden Australia managing director Mark Padwick said the phase-down provides industry with a level of certainty that “will allow industry to invest in new technologies that can deliver cooling even more efficiently and safely into the future.”

“We have acted decisively and effectively to repair the ozone hole and now we are taking further dramatic steps to improve our climate – but doing so in a way that allows industry to deliver the services the public needs and wants,” he said.

Refrigerants Australia executive director Greg Picker agreed, saying the organisation ”has long contended that a predictable phase down in HFCs can assist the industry and deliver a range of benefits including reduced costs to consumers, better performance of refrigeration and air conditioning equipment, improved energy efficiency and significant emission reductions”.

Speaking in the House of Representatives as the Amendment Bill was tabled, Australian Labor Party (ALP) MP for Lalor, Joanne Ryan, said it was “a pleasure to be on this side of the House tonight to support a piece of legislation that will lead to protections for our environment and that has the support of industry”.

The Amendment Bill was also without controversy in the Senate, with ALP Western Australia senator Louise Pratt praising industry for its role in the HFC phase-down.

“It is terrific to see that industry has been moving in this direction and supports the earlier start and lower limit, and I and the Labor Party would like to commend them for their proactive work in this area,” she said.

Announcing that the Amendment Bill had passed Parliament, federal environment and energy minister Josh Frydenberg said Australia “has a proud record of leadership in the Montreal Protocol”.

“The Coalition Government’s early action on passing this legislation demonstrates our continued international leadership and will constitute a significant domestic emissions reduction of up to 80 million tonnes,” he said.

“The Bill will achieve these environmental outcomes at the same time as significantly cutting red tape, including reducing the number of businesses required to hold a licence by one third, halving the reporting obligations and reducing the number of invoices sent by 94 per cent.”

On behalf of members and the broader industry, VASA has been active throughout the process that led to Australia’s HFC phase-down as part of an industry consultation panel.

The automotive industry represents a large portion of Australia’s HFC consumption and already has one universally accepted alternative in R1234yf, with R744 (carbon dioxide) also likely to play a role in future.

Now the Amendment Bill has been written into the statute books, VASA will continue pushing for fair and effective regulation that will ensure the HFC phase-down is both successful and workable.

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