Gov’t Asks Car Owners To Upgrade AC Systems

In order to meet Cambodia’s com­mitment under the Montreal Pro­tocol, an international agreement de­signed to protect the ozone layer, the Ministry of Environment is asking people who own cars made before 1996 to voluntarily upgrade their vehicle’s air conditioning systems.​​​

Khieu Muth, secretary of state for the Ministry of Environment, said the strategy to reduce harmful emissions that contribute to global warming is currently tar­get­ing registered cars in Phnom Penh and Banteay Meanchey, Battambang, Kandal and Siem Reap provinces.

“This project is part of Cam­bodia’s contribution to the common global effort to reduce any substances harmful to the piercing of the ozone layer,” Khieu Muth said Tuesday.

Air conditioning systems in older cars contain ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons—commonly re­ferred to as CFCs—and officials are encouraging motorists to get rid of old units that use CFC-12 refrigerants and replace them with the new HFC134a coolant system.

Since the air conditioning systems in older cars are often damaged and leak CFCs, automobile air conditioners are major problems in the battle against curbing the heat-trapping greenhouse gases.

Scientists believe the gases are raising temperatures by de­stroying a blanket of ozone that shields Earth from the sun’s ultraviolet rays.

Khieu Muth said car owners who don’t volunteer to participate in the program will not face any penalty, but he said motorists may possibly be forced to make the upgrade sometime before 2010.

With the help of the UN Devel­opment Program, the Ministry of Environment plans to pay half of the total charge of $52 for refitting a vehicle with the new air conditioning system. Car owners are re­quired to put up the other $26 when they bring their vehicles to one of 14 garages across the country where mechanics have been trained in fitting the units and properly disposing of the old units.

The money for the program comes from a $400,000 subsidy from the Montreal Protocol, ac­cording to Miho Hayashi, an environment analyst with the UNDP.

It’s expected that within four years the project would encourage the retrofitting of air conditioning units in 20,000 vehicles in Cam­bodia, according to the UNDP.

The voluntary program will operate on a first-come, first-served basis until December 2007 or until the subsidy funds have been ex­hausted, Hayashi said.

Chum Rongthen, owner of a gar­age in Siem Reap, one of the 14 gar­ages involved in the project, has been well versed in the environ­men­tal issues regarding the old air conditioning systems. “I was trained in many ozone issue workshops organized by the Ministry of Environ­ment,” Chum Rongthem said. “I be­lieve now in the ozone layer after I learned about it,” he said. “Before I just did not care.”

Vong Keang, who owns a service station in Phnom Penh, said three motorists brought in their older cars for the upgrade on Mon­day. “This is a good way to help the environment,” Vong Keang said.

Because a large amount of agricultural production in Cambodia depends on the annual flooding and recession of the Tonle Sap Lake, Cambodia is highly sensitive to potential climate changes associated with the ozone layer, according to the UNDP.


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