LONDON: Once again living up to its status as ‘world’s most effective environmental treaty’, the Montreal Protocol has struck a deal with China to phase-out hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) production and so prevent eight billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions.
With funding of up to US$385m from the Montreal Protocol’s Multilateral Fund, China will eliminate its production of HCFCs, ozone-depleting substances that are also potent greenhouse gases.
Clare Perry, Senior Campaigner for the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), said: “This is an important step which demonstrates yet again the significance of the Montreal Protocol in providing effective climate mitigation through a tried and tested process.”
The decision, reached at the most recent meeting of the Multilateral Fund, is a major step in the accelerated phase-out of HCFCs. The elimination of the production of over 4.3 million metric tonnes of HCFCs will prevent emissions of eight billion tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2), equivalent to emissions from 1.6 billion cars, one-and-a-half times the global motor vehicle fleet.
HCFCs are chemicals used mainly in air conditioning, refrigeration, foam blowing and solvents. They are also used as feedstock for other products such as Teflon feedstock use of HCFCs is not regulated by the Montreal Protocol as it is deemed that the HCFCs are entirely consumed in the process and not emitted to the atmosphere. However, the production of HCFC also results in the unwanted production of HFC-23, a super greenhouse gas 14,800 times more damaging to the climate than CO2. While destruction of HFC-23 is easily done and inexpensive, some Chinese plants allow HFC-23 by-product to be vented, resulting in growing atmospheric concentrations.
According to the press release issued by the Multilateral Fund, China has agreed to “…make best efforts to manage HCFC production and associated by-product production in HCFC plants in accordance with best practices to minimize associated climate impacts.”
This stops short of mandating HFC-23 destruction in all plants, but does indicate China’s intent to follow best practice as currently followed by HCFC producers in developed countries where HFC-23 is routinely destroyed.
EIA is calling on China to formally pledge to destroy the HFC-23 from all Chinese HCFC production facilities, including facilities which produce HCFC for feedstock.
“Elimination of China’s production of HCFCs over the next 17 years is a great win for the environment,” said Mark W Roberts, EIA’s Senior Policy Advisor. “However, it will be a hollow victory unless China adopts measures to prevent HFC-23 from being vented into the atmosphere.”
Interviews and further information are available on request; please contact:
Clare Perry Mark W Roberts
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1. The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) investigates and campaigns against environmental crime and abuses.
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