Ozone depleting substances (ODS) and The Montreal Protocol

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Courtesy of Verisae

The Montreal Protocol, officially called the Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer, is an international treaty created to reduce the damage being caused to the stratospheric ozone layer by air pollutants such as refrigerant gases. The ozone layer protects the earth from damaging UV-B radiation, which could lead to increased cases of skin cancer, damaged crops and marine phytoplankton.

The manufacturing and use of ozone depleting substances (ODS) have continued to be phased out under the regulations defined in The Montreal Protocol. Continued improvements will further restrict ODS use in the coming years. These substances are chlorofluorocarbons, halons, carbon tetrachloride and methyl chloroform. Listed within the regulations are HCFCs, a high global warming (GWP) substance with various levels of greenhouse gas consequences. Many refrigerant gases are classified as hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs). These include paint solvents, halons, and insulated, blow-in foam.

The Montreal Protocol followed the international Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer agreement, which ended in 1985. In 1990 and 1992, the Montreal Protocol was amended significantly to extend the 2000 refrigerant gas phase out deadline. Through further enhancements, organizations in many countries may continue to use CHCs but only up to 15 percent of the 1986 baseline. This extension was aimed at helping developing countries meet their needs for essential items like medical devices. Developing countries, however, have a deadline of 2010 to phase out chlorofluorocarbons and carbon tetrachloride and until 2015 to stop production of methyl chloroform.

The revised Montreal Protocol currently calls for developed countries, such as the United States, to phase out hydrochlorofluorocarbons according to the following schedule: 35% reduction in 2004; 65% reduction in 2010; 90% reduction in 2015; 99.5% reduction in 2020; and 100% phase out in 2030. The agreement calls for 0.5% to be allowable in order to service existing refrigeration and air conditioning equipment. For developing countries, 2040 is the deadline for a complete phase out of hydrochlorofluorocarbons.

In establishing a timeframe for reducing the use of ozone depleting substances, the Montreal Protocol looked at scientific, environmental, technical and economic information. Several reports are looking into alternatives that can be used to replace ozone depleting substances in the areas of refrigeration, agriculture, energy production, and laboratory measurements.

A key component of the Montreal Protocol agreement is its continuous monitoring of facilities to make certain that proper control measures are in place for dealing with substances that are harmful to the environment, i.e. commonly referred to as ozone depleting substances (ODS). Clean-Tech development companies often specialize in refrigerant management programs. They can assist businesses and industries in complying with the environmental regulations and laws related to ozone destruction. Refrigerant tracking solutions, when deployed as a web-based solution, are a helpful tool in ensuring that the necessary forms are submitted to meet the EPA reporting requirements.

Because various industries have focused their efforts on air pollutants, the use of many ozone depleting substances has already been greatly reduced. The Montreal Protocol, via unprecedented international cooperation, is working well with goal to be achieved ahead of schedule. The focus, however, remains on companies and industries that fail to comply with the protocols under the agreement.

Currently 194 of 196 United Nations member states have approved Montreal Protocol 1987. By the year 2050, The Montreal Protocol is expected to have restored the ozone layer if all of the defined requirements on ODS emissions are followed. So far, the protocol is considered by many to be the most successful international agreement in history.

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