Concern over “natural” refrigerant safety26th May 2014
AUSTRALIA: The Australian government will review its ozone protection and synthetic greenhouse gas laws amid concerns that the carbon tax has led to inappropriate and unsafe use of natural refrigerants.
A communique from Australia’s minister for the environment Greg Hunt says that the review is needed to ensure continued protection of the environment, while reducing the complexity for businesses and individuals who operate under the legislation.
In the announcement, Greg Hunt acknowledges that alternatives gases such as hydrocarbons, carbon dioxide and ammonia when used safely play an important role in reducing the impact of refrigerants on ozone depletion and climate change. “However,” he says “many alternatives are highly flammable and toxic.”
“This review will examine how to address potential risks which are being increasingly reported due to the impact of Labour’s carbon tax on Australia’s refrigeration and air-conditioning industry from the sudden jump in costs for synthetic greenhouse gases.”
The Australian Institute of Refrigeration, Airconditioning and Heating is said to have raised safety concerns that the carbon tax has led to the unsafe handling and use of alternative gases in systems that were not designed for their use.
The controversial carbon tax was introduced by the previous Labour government in July 2012 It led to dramatic increases in refrigerant prices. The new Liberal government under Tony Abbott is pledged to repeal the controversial tax which has caused manufacturing costs to spiral but is facing opposition from Labour and the Greens.
Taxes are applied according to a refrigerant’s global warming potential some of the higher GWP gases have seen huge price increases.
Greg Hunt says that the government has raised industry’s concerns with the heads of the workplace safety authorities.
“The Department of the Environment will continue to work closely with industry and state and territory work health and safety regulators to improve awareness of the safety risks,” he says.
All members of the refrigeration and air conditioning industry are urged to contact the relevant workplace health and safety organisation in their jurisdiction with any safety concerns. Contacts are available on the SafeWork Australia website at: www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au
Businesses and the community will be consulted throughout the Ozone review. Submissions on the Terms of Reference are invited by 18 July 2014. An interim report is expected to be available for comment by the end of 2014. A final report will be delivered to the Government in mid-2015.
Further information including terms of reference for the review can be accessed on the Department of the Environment’s website at: www.environment.gov.au/topics/environment-protection/ozone/legislation
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