Warming the market up for natural refrigerants

In May 2019, we were very pleased to welcome a new standard that will allow larger quantities of climate-friendly alternatives to damaging fluorinated gases in commercial refrigeration. We followed the standardisation process as closely as we could, making sure the result would help protect the environment.

This new international standard, officially known as IEC 60335-2-89, provides safety requirements for commercial refrigerating appliances and contains positive improvements to the previous version, which blocked the use of climate-friendly flammable refrigerants, such as propane, through tight limits to the allowed charge size.

This standard will pave the way for the increase of the use of climate-friendly refrigerants – a significant contribution towards the mitigation of climate change. This outcome is a milestone in the mitigation of climate change and the implementation of climate legislation, which is now de facto being hindered by safety standards, said Rita Tedesco, ECOS Programme Manager in charge of refrigerants.

 Lengthy process

The positive vote was a result of a complicated process. It should be noted that the standard was developed without the participation of civil society stakeholders: ECOS has been refused access to the IEC Technical Committee (TC 61) which worked on this standard. Added to the lack of transparency were the efforts of chemical companies to undermine 6 years of discussions and a progressive final draft.

We might not have been allowed to join the Committee but we never thought of giving up: to make sure the environmental perspective was given enough prominence, in March 2019 ECOS together with a number of partners (NGOs, business associations and industries) co-signed a position paper inviting national standardisation bodies to cast a positive vote and approve the standard.

The vote and complications

The initial result of the vote was presented as negative due to a miscalculation of votes. In view of this, ECOS and other stakeholders issued a request to the IEC to review one of the votes cast, which was not compliant with the IEC procedural rules, to recount the result and correct it. Consequently, the IEC 60335-2-89 standard was eventually approved at the beginning of May 2019, giving a happy end to a rather long debate.

Next steps

We will continue to advocate for a stronger support of climate-friendly refrigerants in standards beyond commercial refrigeration, including also air-conditioning and heat pumps, and for a more transparent and inclusive standardisation process, allowing for a better representation of environmental interests.

ECOS is co-funded by the European Commission and EFTA

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