13 Dec 2013

Refrigeration Symposium in Samoa looks to protect the ozone layer

5:01 pm on 13 December 2013

The United Nations Environment Programme says the Pacific region is leading the world in efforts to phase out of ozone depleting refrigerants.

More than 100 technicians, apprentices, commercial advisors and government officials from 16 countries met in Samoa last month for the Pacific Regional Ozone2Climate Technologies Symposium.

Jenny Meyer reports:

A UN official says hydrochloroflurocarbon chemicals are targetted for global elimination as they deplete the earth's ozone layer. Artie Dubrie, who is the Pacific Regional Network Co-ordinator of the United Nations Environment Programme, says in the Pacific the refrigeration industry is the only sector using these substances but many businesses are affected.

"ARTIE DUBRIE: We're talking about tourism, the fisheries sector, food security and safety, public buildings, government buildings; anywhere where there's a need for refrigeration and air conditioning. That's where the air conditioning and refrigeration technicians come in. And that's the implication or the relationship with the international agreement."

Artie Dubrie says a key part of her role is the implementation of the Montreal Protocol to phase out ozone depleting substances and she's proud the Pacific is the first sub region to submit data to the UN Secretariat. Artie Dubrie says UNEP is working with 14 Pacific nations to help them strengthen laws and policies to meet their obligations to the treaty signed by nearly 200 countries in late 1980s. She says the air conditioning and refrigeration sector is a critical component in the socio-economic life of island states. She says technicians are learning how to manage older refrigerants safely as they switch to new safer alternatives and a lot of work is going into education.

ARTIE DUBRIE: So that they will have the skills to move into more environmentally friendly alternatives taking into consideration that these technologies should be free from any impact on the fragile stratospheric ozone layer. They should also be climate friendly as well as energy efficient.

The Assistant CEO Meteorology Division Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment for the Samoan Government says most of the funding to phase out the ozone depleting refrigerants comes from the United Nations Environment Programme. Mulipola Titimaea says renewable energy is a priority for the government as it aims to address climate change. He says and energy efficiency is a major focus for the Electric Power Corporation.

MULIPOLA TITIMAEA: So we've got the renewable energy division who are working together with the villages in a small scale solar energy schemes. I can say that EPC is using solar power in the island of Apolima at this time.

Mulipola Titimaea says old refrigerants are being stored in special facilities and are earmarked for transportation and disposal in Australia. UNEP's Artie Dubrie says future development doesn't necessarily mean every home needs an air conditioning unit. She says people need to remember traditions such as building homes around natural wind currents.

ARTIE DUBRIE: And that then of course is the most environmentally friendly. We are paying respect to our indigenous knowledge; we are keeping our indigenous knowledge current. But we need to know that when you buy and airconditioner or you buy your refrigerator; your recurring electrical bill, perhaps on two or three years, might be even more than the cost of the unit itself.

Artie Dubrie says air conditioning and refrigeration units account for up to 60% of total energy demand but ozone officers in all Pacific countries are striving for economic and environmental gains with the phase-out.