Colombia’s refrigeration industry promoting green economy

Apr 2, 2013

Refrigeration plant in Colombia. Photo: UNDP Colombia

Bogotá - Since 2010, Colombia has been taking steps to reduce the substances that harm the environment and deplete the ozone layer, which protects humanity from more than 90 percent of the sun’s ultraviolet radiation.

As of 1 January 2013, the initiative – done in partnership between the Government of Colombia and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) – has resulted in the complete elimination in the use of hydro chlorofluorocarbons (HCFC) in the manufacturing of refrigerators domestically. HCFCs contribute to the depletion of the ozone layer and cause global warming.

In fact, one tonne of CFC can warm the atmosphere 10,000 times more than one tonne of CO2.The project has already shown dramatic results.

The conversion of Colombia’s four refrigeration manufacturing plants has led to the elimination of 56 tonnes of HCFCs and reduced annual CO2 emissions by 600,000 tonnes, a number equivalent to the emissions caused by 120,000 cars.

By gradually eliminating the use of Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS), Colombia is complying with its obligations under the Montreal Protocol, an international treaty calling for the elimination of ozone-destroying gases that was signed and ratified by 196 countries.

The impact of the initiative goes beyond Colombia’s borders. The four manufacturing plants – Mabe Colombia, Haceb, Challenger and Indusel – in addition to serving the domestic market also export 30 percent of their products to countries in South America, including Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela and Central America. A widely used technology using cyclopentane – a flammable hydrocarbon – was chosen to replace HCFC because of their low global warming potential and long term cost effectiveness. 

“With this type of projects Colombia can show that environmental issues are not a barrier to economic development,” says Silvia Rucks, UNDP Country Director in Colombia. “In fact, they could help the private sector to become more productive and competitive.”

"UNDP is proud to have partnered with the Government of Colombia and the private sector,” added Suely Carvalho, Director of the Montreal Protocol Unit/Chemicals, UNDP. “As a result, the introduction of environment-friendly products has led to technological advances, better occupational practices, and consumers’ bills being reduced.”

Ozone layer deterioration was discovered during the 1970s when certain chemicals – called Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS) – were released into the atmosphere.

ODS chemicals emanate from refrigeration and air conditioning equipment and the insulating foam inside water heaters and refrigerators, among others. ODS were also used up until a few years ago as aerosol propellants and to make foam mattresses.

In 1987, 196 countries adopted The Montreal Protocol to protect the ozone layer by controlling ODS consumption. It entered into force in 1994.

Colombia – which ratified the Protocol in 1993 – is committed to eliminating the consumption of ODS through intensive restructuring of many of its industries and through public media campaigns. The Government is working with customs and environmental authorities to control imports and is also training technicians to handle these substances as they recycle and dismantle old appliances.

Highlights of projects financed by UNDP’s Multilateral Fund in Colombia:
• 6,800 technicians received certification in the management of ODS;
• 71,300 people sensitized about ODS and the work of the Ozone Technical Unit (OTU), which has contributed to eliminate the consumption of 2,023 tonnes of ODS;
• Technological conversion of the four manufacturing plants that produce all of Colombia’s domestic refrigeration. This has triggered the elimination of 56 tonnes of ozone depletion potential and helped mitigate climate change by reducing 600,000 tonnes of CO2 annually (equivalent to taking close to 120,000 cars out of circulation).

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