Natural refrigerants needed throughout Olympic venues to cut emissions
The Olympic Games could significantly improve on greenhouse gas emissions if all venues at the event used natural refrigerants over climate affecting hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).
Olympic venues, the Aquatics and Energy centres, have led the way in environmentally friendly cooling systems, while other venues have failed to rise to the challenge. The Olympic Stadium and media centres all rely on HFC-based equipment.
Refrigeration and air-conditioning are a major source of greenhouse gas emissions, partly through the use of synthetic refrigerant chemicals HFCs, which are often thousands of times more potent than carbon dioxide.
Global environment campaigner at the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), Alasdair Cameron, told edie: “The Olympic village has not done too badly [with HFCs], but there is certainly room for improvement.
“The Energy Centre uses biomass-fired combined heat and power and natural refrigerants (ammonia) to provide the necessary heating and cooling for much of the village, while the Aquatic Centre uses ammonia to provide cooling.
“Some other venues have not done quite as well, particularly the stadium and the media centre, both of which are using HFCs. I believe that all of the portable cooling units are also using HFCs”.
According to the EIA, HFCs account for about one per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions globally, which could rise to nearly 20% by the middle of the century unless urgent action is taken.
Mr Cameron added: “The important lesson from [the London Olympic games] is not just that alternative refrigerants are possible but they are becoming increasingly mainstream, and we would hope to see even wider adoption in upcoming events such as the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and the Olympics in Rio.
He added: “EIA and a coalition of other NGOs, including Greenpeace and WWF are calling for bans on the use of HFCs in new equipment in 20 sectors from 2020, where independent research suggests safe, alternative and affordable alternatives are available”.