Low-efficiency air conditioners comprise over one third of sales in focus countries; units contain obsolete refrigerants with high global warming potential
A new report on environmental dumpingi, released in advance of World Refrigeration Day, finds that 35% of the room air conditioners (RACs) sold in many of Africa’s largest countries do not meet minimum energy efficiency standards in their countries of origin and contain refrigerant fluids that are powerful greenhouse gases. “Environmentally Harmful Dumping of Inefficient and Obsolete Air Conditioners in Africa” details the extent of the problem across ten countries in North, West, East, and Southern Africa, ultimately providing policymakers with a set of solutions to encourage a transition toward highly-efficient, sustainable cooling technologies. CLASP researched and wrote the report in collaboration with the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development.
Analysis of ten countries (Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Ghana, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, and South Africa) that account for 96% of the continent’s RAC market reveals that:
From 2005 to 2019, Africa’s market for new split room air conditioners (RACs) grew by an estimated 14%, cumulatively.ii Weak or non-existent energy efficiency policies and the lack of proactive anti-environmental dumping policies in many African countries have facilitated environmentally harmful dumping of inefficient, high-global warming potential (GWP)iii air conditioner products into African markets.
The Montreal Protocol, designed to phase out numerous ozone-depleting substances, was amended in 2016 to include the phase down of substances that trap heat in the atmosphere and exacerbate global warming. As manufacturing and industrialized economies place increasingly stringent energy performance standards on RACs sold domestically and implement refrigerant transition policies, importing African countries risk becoming even greater dumping grounds for inefficient, environmentally harmful products using obsolete refrigerants that no longer have a viable domestic market in their places of origin and soon worldwide.
"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.
“Inefficient ACs are being dumped into Africa where they are ‘energyvampires,’ 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 extremesmay soon exceed levels suitable for human survival,” said Tad Ferris, Senior Counsel for the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development, and a lead author of the paper defining environmentally harmful product dumping.
The prevalence of low efficiency RACs puts 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. Further, 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.
The report outlines a series of recommendations for policymakers to halt environmental dumping and encourage a transition to highly-efficiency, low-GWP RACs, modeling the potential impact of policy scenarios that could reduce 2022-2030 greenhouse gas emissions by 14-20% from current levels:
Ratify the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol and adopt implementing policies.
Design and implement energy efficiency policies consistent with major countries of export.
Strengthen institutional arrangements.
Revise tariffs on RACs to ensure compatibility with energy efficiency goals.
Ban the import of secondhand, including refurbished, and inefficient RACs and publicize and enforce the ban.
Implement government bulk purchasing and support for buyers’ clubs.
Properly recycle and dispose of obsolete room ACs.
Elevate solutions to regional level.
Engage local groups profiting under current system to trade in obsolete equipment as part of the solution
Overall, the report addresses obstacles and paths to environmentally sustainable cooling technologies which are essential to thermal comfort, productivity, and quality of life.
CLASP and IGSD will host a webinar on 1 July, 10 am EDT to present the findings of the report. Pre-registration is necessary for this event. Register here.
i Environmentally harmful product dumping (“environmental dumping”) is “the practice of exporting products to another country or territory that:
1) Contain hazardous substances; 2) Have environmental performance lower than is in the interest of consumers or that is contrary to the
interests of the local and global commons, or; 3) Can undermine the ability of the importing country to fulfill international environmental treaty
commitments.” See Andersen, Stephen O., Ferris, R., Picolotti, R., Zaelke, D., Carvalho, S., Gonzalez, M. (2018). Defining the legal and policy
framework to stop the dumping of environmentally harmful products. Duke Environmental Law & Policy Forum: Vol. XXIX:1, at 9, available at
ii Euromonitor 2019. Euromonitor provides reported and modeled estimates for RAC market size by country. For most countries on the African
continent, Euromonitor does not have reported sales from trade sources, and instead models approximate market size using national statistics
(population, number of households, etc.).
iii Throughout the report, CLASP refers to the GWP of refrigerants. To align with Montreal Protocol tracking, CLASP uses IPCC AR4 100-year
GWP values. https://www.ipcc.ch/site/assets/uploads/2018/05/ar4_wg1_full_report-1.pdf
“Environmentally Harmful Dumping of Inefficient and Obsolete Air Conditioners in Africa” is available at . For media inquiries, please contact Rebecca Schloemann at email@example.com or Gabrielle Dreyfus at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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CLASP serves as the leading international voice & resource for appliance energy efficiency policies and market acceleration initiatives. From advancing the off-grid solar technologies bringing power to energy-impoverished people, to cutting the catastrophic climate impacts of air conditioning, CLASP programs increase uptake of affordable, low-impact, high-quality appliances.
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