Lifecycle Refrigerant Management

As climate change worsens, the globe will increasingly rely on air conditioning to cope with extreme heat. Between now and 2050, approximately 10 air conditioners will be sold every second

Cooling in a warming world poses a dual mandate: first, to ensure equitable access to cooling; and second, to reduce climate impacts from cooling equipment by improving energy efficiency and reducing emissions of highly potent refrigerant gases such as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).

Most of our work involves improving the lifecycle refrigerant management of HFCs, which are currently the fastest-growing greenhouse gas by emission in the world. We have keen interest on utilizing financing mechanisms such as the voluntary carbon market to scale refrigerant recovery and abatement activities, particularly in developing countries. 

We also work with partner organizations to harmonize refrigerant management and energy efficiency efforts, with the goal of maximizing the climate benefits of domestic and international environmental policies.

Refrigerants Estimates

Our estimates represent the potential near-term impact of several interventions that the CC Lab is developing, including a methodology to approve crediting for the recovery and destruction of HFCs in Article 5 countries to the Montreal Protocol.

To date, project developers have mitigated 30 million metric tons CO2e destruction of ozone-depleting substances such as chlorofluorocarbons. These credits – sold on both compliance and voluntary markets – are broadly considered to be among the highest quality credits available to buyers today.

Today, the opportunity to recover and destroy HFCs is even bigger, particularly in the developing world. Between today and 2035, more than 11 gigatons CO2e of HCFC and HFC emissions could be prevented with better management of refrigerants at equipment end-of-life. About 8 gigatons CO2e of these emissions will come from developing countries.

Reaching these goals will require a robust end market for recovered refrigerant and strong incentives to boost recovery rates. We're working with project developers, major carbon market registries, investors, and government regulators to use voluntary carbon markets to scale up refrigerant recovery and abatement.

Total Potential near term goal
Risk-Adjusted Near-Term Project Goal
Potential Near-Term Project Goal
from program Anthropogenic

Refrigerants Timeline

The CC Lab is exploring opportunities to incentivize and coordinate recovery of refrigerant gases such as HFCs, and to destroy or reclaim these gases. We are investigating recovery and abatement opportunities in markets with high demand for cooling, such as Southeast Asia.


Build relationships with project developers, climate regulators, and NGOs


Research major registry standards and international best practices


Leverage CC Lab resources to scale up refrigerant recovery and destruction internationally


Encourage lifecycle refrigerant management best practices and broader adoption of low-GWP alternative refrigerants


Support the expansion of refrigerant recovery and abatement infrastructure in developing countries

Key International Agreements

The Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol develops the roadmap to phase down production and consumption of HFCs internationally. But even with full implementation of the Kigali Amendment, close to 70 gigatons of CO2e of ODS and HFCs will enter the market between today and 2100. This future refrigerant consumption, in addition with the 24 gigatons of CO2e of refrigerants already in existence, comprise the "installed refrigerant bank." Our team actively participates in Montreal Protocol meetings, which assemble global stakeholders around issues of ozone and climate protection.

Locking Up the Refrigerant Bank

Our objective is to keep the installed refrigerant bank safe and locked. We support and develop strategies to improve refrigerant recovery rates from existing equipment, and to destroy that refrigerant such that it never reaches the atmosphere. We also support companies in bringing equipment using climate-friendly cooling technology to market and leverage resources and technical expertise at Yale to develop models to better manage refrigerants on institutional campuses. 

Risks & Risk Mitigation

Technology readiness

Equipment to safely recover and destroy refrigerant gases has existed for decades, but isn't always easily used in practice in the developing world. 

Market and reputation challenges

Illegal HFC destruction scandals have made some buyers skittish about purchasing HFC destruction-related credits. Although this illegal activity was materially different from the recovery and destruction model that we propose, we must work to rebuild confidence in the robustness of HFC-related projects.

Execution and implementation

Scaling refrigerant recovery and destruction requires an extensive network of refrigerant technicians to collect refrigerant gases from end-of-life equipment. Historically, project developers have struggled to boost recovery volumes, despite offering cash incentives to technicians. Technicians may also not have appropriate equipment to recover refrigerant, even in the presence of adequate financial incentives.

Methodology and verification

Today, there are no methodologies on major registries that approve projects that recover and destroy HFCs. Although updates enabling these projects are in the pipeline, the timeline for methodology finalization is unclear. Until then, project developers are at a disadvantage in the voluntary carbon credit market.

Pricing and revenues

We believe that the market does not currently value refrigerant recovery and destruction credits accurately, both in terms of the additionality and permanence of projects and the short-lived nature of refrigerant gases. Buyers’ knowledge deficit about the climate importance of refrigerants may limit the growth of the market.

Regulatory risk

Domestic carbon market regulations are rapidly emerging in developing countries that would be targets for refrigerant recovery and destruction projects. These regulations could complicate the ability to generate and sell carbon credits to international buyers.