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SCIENCE > Environment

Japan Inc. taking lead in switch to green refrigerants

  • January 10, 2017
  • , Nikkei Asian Review , 7:30 am
  • English Press

Lawson, Ajinomoto and other Japanese corporations are phasing out the use of fluorocarbon refrigerants, a class of greenhouse gases, in order to both comply with stiffer regulations and attract investors concerned about the environment.  

 

Institutional investors around the globe are increasingly taking environmental measures into account when screening investments. Such socially responsible asset management has reportedly climbed to $62 trillion. The Paris Agreement aimed at reducing greenhouse gases has gone into effect, and a separate accord calls for cuts in fluorocarbon production beginning in 2019. For business groups, environmentally friendly strategies are becoming an important part of raising funds and conducting business.

 

Fluorocarbon alternatives typically in use today do not deplete the ozone layer, but can be a few hundred to over 10,000 times more damaging to the climate than carbon dioxide. Some companies are now looking to stop using such alteratives entirely.

 

A large number of Lawson’s convenience stores will utilize refrigeration units employing carbon dioxide as the coolant instead of fluorocarbons. The total will increase to 2,700 locations by fiscal 2017 — accounting for more than 20% of its stores in Japan — compared with 1,300 at the end of fiscal 2015.

 

Lawson is shouldering the entire cost of the project, estimated at about 10 billion yen ($86.3 million). The undertaking is equivalent to roughly a third of the 9,000 retail shops in Europe that use display cases chilled by carbon dioxide.

 

Ajinomoto Frozen Foods is switching out 34 refrigeration units at all seven of its Japanese plants, including those run by affiliates, with ones that don’t use fluorocarbons. The project started concurrently with standard equipment updates and will end by 2020. Each non-fluorocarbon unit is said to cost around 50 million yen, or at least 30% more than the fluorocarbon models. But the new equipment is also energy efficient. With government subsidies, some companies could recoup their investment in as little as four years.

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