CFC-free Refrigerators in Thailand
Yuichi Fujimoto, JICOP, Japan
Stephen Andersen, U.S. EPA, Washington DC, USA
Keywords: Japan, USA, Thailand, N S, technology transfer, CFC-free refrigerators, ODS phaseout, HFC-134a
This case study is for the industrial sector and the stakeholders are Government of Thailand, Hitachi, Matsushita, Mitsubishi Electric, Toshiba of Japan, and the Japan Electrical Manufacturers Association (JEMA). The government of Thailand and the multinational companies decided to speed the phase-out of ozone depleting substances (ODSs) through a voluntary pledge. The technical challenge of achieving this environmental objective for the manufacture of ODS-free domestic refrigerators required an unprecedented degree of technical cooperation between fierce competitors in Thailand and Japan.
The CFCs were phased out under the Montreal Protocol by using HFCs, which are regulated under the Kyoto Protocol. HFCs have much lower GWP as compared to CFCs. The lesson learned from this technology transfer may be useful for similar transfer under Climate Change Convention.
In a 1990 seminar conducted for the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), it was reported that electronics and refrigerator enterprises from Japan, the United States and Europe were primarily responsible for dramatic rates of increase in CFC consumption in Thailand. This case study considers the technology cooperation undertaken to halt the use of CFCs in refrigerators. Seven Japanese companies and their joint ventures in Thailand produced household refrigerators in Thailand. Three of these companies imported all the critical parts necessary to complete the phaseout but the other four companies used compressors supplied by a single Thai company. It was therefore crucial that the Thai compressor manufacturer redesign their products to use CFC alternatives, and that they manufacture reliable compressors.
The government of Thailand announced its target date for eliminating CFCs from Thai household refrigerators as the end of 1996. This phaseout date for CFCs used as the refrigerant and as the blowing agent for insulating foam in domestic refrigerators was particularly aggressive. The first option was to keep to the phaseout schedule by getting compressors from manufacturers other than the local companies. This option was rejected because Japanese companies had pledged to help Thailand to build local manufacturing capability. The second option was to postpone the phaseout and wait for a supply of reliable compressors from the local companies. This option was also rejected, because the Thai government was eager to keep the phase-out on schedule. The only other option required additional technology cooperation with the local compressor company. The refrigerator parent companies that were buying compressors in Thailand, i.e. Hitachi, Matsushita, Mitsubishi Electric, Toshiba of Japan, and the Japan Electrical Manufacturers Association (JEMA) launched a voluntary emergency joint project to assist the local companies to improve reliability and to help with its implementation. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency attended follow-up meetings in Thailand and encouraged the Thai compressor manufacturers' parent companies in the United States to promote their participation in the technical support project.
As a result of the corporate leadership by multinational companies, ambitious goals were announced that ultimately required unprecedented technical cooperation to achieve. The seven Japanese refrigerator companies and their joint ventures all achieved the complete CFC phaseout by the end of 1996, the first phaseout of CFCs used in domestic refrigerators by any developing country in the world.
Because the Thai Government realised the importance of phasing out of CFCs, they took measures to prohibit the manufacture or import of foreign CFC-based refrigerators after 1996. This leadership action and support by the Thai government encouraged the Thai refrigerator manufacturers to work hard to achieve the CFC phaseout. It also created a strong motivation to phase out CFCs in refrigerators manufactured in other developing countries. It is worth noting that the Japanese companies, which helped the Thai companies in developing HFC-134a compressors, were in direct competition to supply the other three refrigerator manufacturers in Thailand.
There are three crucial aspects to the successful achievement of global environmental objectives: global leadership and commitment to cooperation for global environmental protection, an early action plan from industry, and cooperation between government and industry.
This extraordinary technical cooperation can only be replicated when all of these aspects can be orchestrated and when there is a strong commitment from corporate management and national governments.
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Stephen O. Andersen
Director of Strategic Climate Projects
401 M Street SW (6202J)
Washington, DC 20460
Phone: (202) 564-9069
Fax: (202) 565-2135
Mr. Yuichi Fujimoto
Japan Industrial Conference for Ozone Layer Protection (JICOP)
Phone: (813) 5689-7981 or 7982
Fax: (813) 5689-7983
Mr. Thanavat Junchaya
Regional Network Coordinator of OzonAction Programme, Bangkok
United Nations Environment Programme
Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific
United Nations Building, Rajadamnern Avenue,
Bangkok 10200, Thailand
Phone: 662-2881870, 2881234
Mr. Wiraphon Rajadanuraks
Hazardous Substances Control Bureau
Department of Industrial Works
75/6 Rama 6 Road
Phone: (662) 202-4201
Fax: (662) 202-4015
Mr. Viraj Vithoontien
Montreal Protocol Environmental Specialist
1818 H Street, NW
Washington, DC 20433
Phone: (202) 458-1913
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