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Upcoming Amendment to Montreal Protocol – Phasedown of HFCs

The Montreal Protocol came into effect on January 1, 1989. This treaty was designed to remove and replace the use of ozone depleting substances (ODS). The main ODS focused on initially in the Montreal Protocol were the Chlorofluorocarbons or CFCs. According to the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), the Montreal Protocol was incredibly successful in that a return on the initial 3.5 billion investment was estimated at US$1.8 trillion through global health benefits. It also resulted in massive savings in the agricultural, fisheries and materials sectors (UNEP, 2015). One of the developments that resulted from the initial Montreal Protocol was the adoption of Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) to replace the ozone depleting substances (CFCs). HFCs were chosen as they do not have the same tendency to enter a cycle of destroying the ozone in the upper atmosphere. The adoption of HFCs had the desired outcome of stopping and even, as recently published papers suggest, reversing the damage to the ozone layer. However, one problem with the continued adoption and growth of HFC use is that HFCs are also very strong greenhouse gases (GHGs). Many HFCs are thousands of times stronger GHGs than CO2. HFC use has continued to grow as more developing countries adopt air conditioning and refrigeration technologies.

As a result of increased use of HFCs, the environmental gains of the Montreal protocol could be negated through increased emissions of GHGs with a CO2 equivalence of up to 8.8 gigatons annually by 2050. The goal of the upcoming 2016 amendment is to prevent this increase from occurring through several steps known as the Dubai Pathway. This pathway is a road map for countries to use to make the transition away from HFC easier by highlighting the challenges and finding ways to overcome them. Many countries involved with the Montreal Protocol have already been implementing the Dubai Pathway. For example, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the United States will cease production and import of HFCs resulting a 99% reduction relative to the baseline (EPA, 2016). If successful, the HFC phaseout would avoid the equivalent of 100 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide and more than 0.5°C of warming by 2050 (UNEP, 2016).

The amendment to the Montreal Protocol to include the phaseout of HFCs is anticipated to be accepted in October of 2016 at the meeting in Kigali, Rwanda.

 

References

EPA, 2016. Phaseout of Class 2 Ozone-Depleting Substances. Ozone Depleting Substances         Phaseout. Retrieved from: https://www.epa.gov/ods-phaseout/phaseout-class-ii-ozone-     depleting-substances

 

UNEP (2015). Montreal Protocol Parties Devise Way Forward to Protect Climate Ahead of         Paris COP21. UNEP News Centre. Retrieved from:             http://www.unep.org/newscentre/default.aspx?DocumentID=26854&ArticleID=35543

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