Washington, D.C. – General Motors will convert the air conditioning systems in all of its vehicles to a new refrigerant, called HFC-1234yf, with a lower climate impact. The company said that HFC-134a, the hydrofluorocarbon refrigerant currently used in virtually every American car and truck, has a global warming potential (GWP) of 1400, compared to a GWP of four in the new refrigerant.

Introduced as replacements for ozone-depleting substances, HFCs do not damage the ozone layer, but are potent global warming agents and are considered “super” greenhouse gases. Greenhouse gas emissions from mobile air conditioning account for 40 per cent of all annual HFC emissions in the U.S.

HFCs are widely used as refrigerants, aerosol propellants and in foam-blowing applications, but scientific studies show that soaring worldwide demand for them could sabotage efforts to combat climate change.

“GM’s decision to eliminate HFCs heralds the beginning of the end for an entire class of greenhouse gases,” said Alexander von Bismarck, executive director of the Environmental Investigation Agency. “We should expect other automakers and manufacturing sectors to follow GM’s lead, and for the transition to alternative and natural refrigerants to accelerate dramatically.”

Canada, Mexico and the U.S. made a recent effort under the Montreal Protocol to secure an international agreement to phase out HFCs.

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