Federal offset protocol: Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Refrigeration Systems


Canada’s Greenhouse Gas Offset Credit System was launched on June 8, 2022, with the publication of the Canadian Greenhouse Gas Offset Credit System Regulations (the Regulations), as a key element of the Government of Canada’s 2030 Emissions Reduction Plan.

Canada’s Greenhouse Gas Offset Credit System provides an incentive to undertake projects in Canada that reduce greenhouse gases—either by preventing them from being emitted, or by removing them from the atmosphere—that go beyond legal requirements and business-as-usual practices, and that are not subject to carbon pollution pricing. It will generate economic opportunities for businesses, municipalities, Indigenous communities, foresters, farmers, and other project developers in sectors such as waste, forestry, agriculture, and technology-based projects, and will help stimulate innovation and private-sector investment to generate greenhouse gas reductions.

Each offset credit represents one tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) that has been reduced or removed from the atmosphere. Federal offset credits can be used by facilities regulated under the federal Output-Based Pricing System to compensate for emissions that exceed their limit. This helps reduce compliance costs and maintain business competitiveness. Federal greenhouse gas offset credits can also be used by any organization, individual, or government to meet voluntary emission reduction objectives or net-zero commitments.

Reducing Greenhouse Gases from Refrigeration Systems v1.0

Environment and Climate Change Canada has published the final Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Refrigeration Systems Version 1.0 (RGGERS) protocol, the second federal offset protocol under Canada’s Greenhouse Gas Offset Credit System. This protocol will incentivize businesses to transition to refrigeration and air-conditioning systems that use refrigerants with lower Global Warming Potentials—such as carbon dioxide (CO2) refrigeration systems or ammonia-glycol hybrid systems, among others—thus generating revenue for participating businesses from reducing their greenhouse gas emissions.

Commercial or industrial facilities that may want to participate include: food processing plants, ice rinks, shopping centres, office buildings, industrial parks, retail grocery stores, and cold storage warehouses. Eligible refrigeration systems include: centralized refrigeration, commercial air-conditioning, chillers, condensing units, and heat pumps.

Example of a RGGERS offset project—ice rink upgrade

A community hockey arena has ice-making machinery that uses a type of hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) gas as a refrigerant, an extremely potent greenhouse gas that has a Global Warming Potential ranging from hundreds to thousands of times that of carbon dioxide. As part of normal wear and tear, the equipment leaks a bit of this gas each year.

Following the protocol, the arena’s management installs a new refrigeration system using carbon dioxide as a refrigerant, so that the greenhouse gas emissions from the unavoidable equipment leaks are significantly lower than what would have occurred if the original system was left in place.

However, making this change is expensive, and would be unlikely to happen without financial support or incentives. Through Canada’s Greenhouse Gas Offset Credit System, the arena can earn credits for these emission reductions, then sell these credits to industrial facilities or others looking to meet their own climate obligations.

In this way, the arena can recoup the costs of upgrading its equipment, benefitting the whole community and the environment at the same time.

Federal offset protocols

Projects carried out under Canada’s Greenhouse Gas Offset Credit System must meet the requirements in the Regulations and the applicable protocol, which set out conditions for project implementation and methods for quantifying greenhouse gas emissions reductions and removals. Only eligible project activities included in a published federal offset protocol will be able to generate federal offset credits.

Protocol development is informed by teams of technical experts who provide input on technical aspects of offset project activities. Environment and Climate Change Canada will continue to engage with provinces, territories, Indigenous organizations, and stakeholders in the development of federal offset protocols. The federal offset protocols are designed to ensure projects generate greenhouse gas reductions that are real, additional, quantified, verified, unique, and permanent.

Thus far, two protocols have been published: Landfill Methane Recovery and Destruction and Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Refrigeration Systems. Other protocols currently in development are: Improved Forest Management on Private Lands; Livestock Feed Management; Direct Air Carbon Dioxide Capture and Sequestration; and Enhanced Soil Organic Carbon. Environment and Climate Change Canada has also identified other project types under consideration for future protocol development, including: Improved Forest Management on Public Lands; Bioenergy Carbon Capture and Sequestration; Livestock Manure Management; and Anaerobic Digestion.

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