The government has warned Kenyans against the continued use of coolants and household items that contain harmful Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) that have high global warming potential and asked them to embrace the use of water for refrigeration purposes.
The green house chemicals that are widely used in cooling and refrigeration were introduced as non-ozone depleting alternative to Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) and though they do not damage the ozone layer, their widespread use can cause global warming that has adverse effects on the environment.
Majority of the HFCs are contained in refrigerators, air conditioners and aerosol propellants and are emitted due to faulty maintenance, wear and tear or leakage, with reports indicating that they have effects hundreds of times worse than carbon dioxide.
Environment and Forestry Cabinet Secretary Keriako Tobiko said with the need for cooling growing rapidly in the country, cold chains for fresh produce and safe transport and storage of vaccines in the Covid-19 era is crucial.
He said completely phasing down HFCs by 2026 will ensure reduced emission of the chemicals to the environment and contribute towards combating climate change.
”The government will continue to raise the awareness on the importance of protecting the ozone layer for safe environment,” said Mr Tobiko in a speech read by Mr Joel Kitili.
CS Tobiko said his ministry, through the national ozone unit, had already trained 195 Kenya Revenue Authority custom officers and 1,000 refrigeration technicians on control measures.
But the increasing sale and use of fringes and air conditioners in the country which will see the atmospheric concentration of the chemicals soar causing major concern is worrying environmentalists.
Reduced emission and use of appliances containing the gases means Kenyans stopping to purchase the equipment and reduced importation — which will be an uphill task — in tackling the HFCs menace.
“The government should have in the first place banned the sale and importation of the household appliances containing HFCs. We should have been informed on the refrigerators that emit the gases so that we do not purchase them,” said Isiolo resident Hussein Galgalo.
The Nairobi Technical Training Institute is working on an innovation for using water for refrigeration, which Mr Tobiko said will contribute to a safe environment.
Reduced illegal imports
National Environment Management Authority (Nema) official Celela Okoth said the regulator is enforcing the single window system that had seen reduced illegal imports of the items emitting the super pollutants.
“The government struggled with illegal imports of fringes between 2010 and 2013 but we have made progress through the single window system,” Ms Okoth said.
Nema, she said, had formulated control services regulations and introduced a functional system for refrigeration and air conditioning gases that have impact on ozone layer.
Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) Executive Director Mithika Mwenda called for swift measures in dealing with the dangerous chemicals, rooting for locally led actions that he said will ensure climate actions respond to the needs of communities.
During national celebrations to mark the International Ozone Day in Isiolo, the official lamented that human activities continue to endanger the environment that is supposed to sustain lives and livelihoods.
Climate change ravages
“Ozone layer depletion exposes mankind to the ravages of climate change and at our slow pace of acting against some of these dangerous chemicals, I am afraid, it may be too late for us to reverse the rate at which climate change is to take place,” Dr Mwenda said in speech read by Ms Mary Mwaga.
The ozone layer protects the earth from harmful ultraviolet rays and stratospheric ozone loss results to increased skin cancer, cataracts and immune system damage.
Global warming causes soaring temperatures on the earth and climate change, whose effects are flooding, rising water levels and water borne diseases among others.
The theme of the International Ozone Day 2021 was “Montreal Protocol – keeping us, our food and vaccines cool”.
Isiolo Environment Executive Josphine Eregai said the county government had come up with Climate Change Act, 2018 for mitigating effects of weather change.