Treaty to restore ozone layer delivers massive climate protection
Montreal, Canada. While international climate talks remain deadlocked, the Montreal Protocol has been methodically eliminating some of the worst chemicals contributing to global warming.
International ozone negotiators meeting in Montreal last week approved country plans to phase out ozone-depleting substances (ODS) which are also super greenhouse gases (GHGs) harmful to the global climate. By 2015, the reductions approved last week will prevent more than 62 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent (CO2e) emissions.
From July 25-29, negotiators at the Multilateral Fund, the financial body established to help developing countries to meet their commitments under the Montreal Protocol, assessed ODS phase-out plans submitted by dozens of countries including China, Brazil, Indonesia and Mexico.
Countries converting from ODS have traditionally chosen to convert to high global warming potentials (GWP) hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), chemicals which do not harm the ozone layer but are super GHGs with GWP hundreds to thousand of times greater than CO2. Developed countries which have already phased out ODS have switched to high-GWP alternatives in about 75 per cent of cases. However, at last week’s meeting, many phase-out plans which proposed to convert to HFC-410A and other high-GWP alternatives were either revised or rejected.
“The rejection of phase-out plans that proposed the use of high-GWP alternatives signals that the Montreal Protocol is committed to protecting climate,” said Mark W Roberts, EIA International Policy Advisor, who attended the meeting. “The world is finally recognising that there’s simply no reason to fund transitions to super greenhouse gases when environmentally responsible alternatives are available.”
While the vast majority of conversions were from hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) to low-GWP alternatives, several plans were approved which will ‘phase-in’ high-GWP HFCs in refrigeration and air conditioning, primarily as a result of funding constraints which are limiting 100 per cent adoption of climate-friendly alternatives. HFC-410A, which is 1,890 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than CO2 was approved for use in air conditioning in China, Mexico and Lebanon. These conversions will negate millions of tonnes of CO2-equivalent emissions reductions and lock these countries into climate damaging technologies for decades.
“The decisions being made are a signal to all countries that HFCs are a dead end technology and that enormous climate benefits are available through the Montreal Protocol’s HCFC phase-out,” said Clare Perry, EIA Senior Campaigner. “An even greater climate pay-off could be achieved by slightly increasing the Multilateral Fund’s budget so that HFCs are not unnecessarily phased in.”
A second meeting of the Montreal Protocol, which started yesterday, will discuss wider issues including the next tranche of funding available for the HCFC phase-out, as well as proposal to begin a phase-out of HFCs.
Roberts added: “Last week’s approval of conversions to low-GWP technologies puts many developing countries on clean development pathways and shows that climate and ozone protection can be addressed simultaneously. The Montreal Protocol has the resources and expertise to effectuate a fast and cost-effective phase-out of HFCs and rid the world of these super greenhouse gases.”
1. The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone layer has been regarded as the most successful international environmental agreement to date, having phased out the consumption of 98 per cent of chemicals under its control, including chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in order to restore the ozone layer.
2. Introduced as replacements to CFCs, hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) were the global refrigerant of choice, dominating many international markets. In response to rampant growth in HCFC use, the Parties to the Montreal Protocol agreed in 2007 to accelerate their phase-out.
3. Although HCFCs have a relatively low ozone-depleting potential (ODP) compared to CFCs, these substances have a high global warming potentials hundreds and thousands of times that of CO2. The Accelerated HCFC Phase-out promises benefits not just for the ozone layer but also the climate system. The rapid rise in the production and use of HCFCs has presented a stern challenge to the Montreal Protocol in ensuring that its accelerated phase-out targets are met, and that the replacement compounds and technologies do not have similarly negative consequences for the global climate.
EIA’s report to the 31st Meeting of the Open Ended Working Group is available below.
Mark W. Roberts