Montreal Protocol Parties Move Closer to Managing Hydrofluorocarbons under Most-Successful Environmental Treaty

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HFCs are used in the air conditioning, refrigeration, foam and aerosol sectors as replacements for many ozone-depleting substances (ODSs)

Parties to the Montreal Protocol, the world's most-successful environmental treaty, moved closer to finalizing a mandate for a contact group on the feasibility and ways of managing hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) under the treaty during their thirty-sixth Open-ended Working Group meeting (OEWG 36) held from 20 to 24 July in Paris, France.

HFCs are man-made fluorinated chemicals that do not deplete the ozone layer but are potent greenhouse gases listed under the UNFCCC/Kyoto Protocol and many of them have high global-warming-potential.

HFCs are used in the air conditioning, refrigeration, foam and aerosol sectors as replacements for many ozone-depleting substances (ODSs), including chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), halons and hydrochloroflurocarbons (HCFCs), which are being phased out under the Montreal Protocol.

Amendment proposals

For the first time ever, the parties, who have considered possibilities of HFC management under the Montreal Protocol over the past seven years, held detailed discussions on various elements of four proposals submitted by a total of 40 countries to amend the Protocol to phase down HFCs.

The parties also discussed issues related to essential-use exemptions for controlled substances and forwarded a draft decision on China's nomination for essential-use exemption for 2016 for carbon tetrachloride for the testing of oil, grease and total petroleum hydrocarbons in water for consideration in November. China's request was the only one received this year.

'This year, there were no requests for essential-use exemption for CFCs for metered-dose inhalers, which represents another milestone in phasing out CFCs,' said Tina Birmpili, the Executive Secretary of the Ozone Secretariat.

Assessment panels' findings

The three assessment panels of the Montreal Protocol presented the main findings of their 2014 quadrennial assessment reports.

The Scientific Assessment Panel highlighted that ODSs are declining in the atmosphere and radiative forcing by CFCs and HCFCs will decline over the course of the 21st century. On the other hand, HFCs are increasing rapidly and radiative forcing by future HFC emissions can be up to 25 per cent of that of future carbon dioxide emissions by the middle of the century, but this could be curbed through the use of HFCs with low global-warming-potential or other alternatives.

The Environmental Effects Assessment Panel observed that because large increases in ultraviolet radiation have been prevented, major effects of ozone depletion on human health have been avoided.

The Technology and Economic Assessment Panel and its six Technical Options Committees noted that the Montreal Protocol is working and its controls have created incentives for new technology.

The panel further observed that HCFC phase-out is progressing, HCFC phase-out management plans are generally running smoothly, both ozone- and climate-friendly options continue to emerge, and continued vigilance is needed on remaining sector challenges and technology choices, to avoid off-setting the benefits achieved under the Montreal Protocol, particularly for climate.

The three panels will produce a synthesis report of the three 2014 assessments later in the year, to be available for consideration as parties develop their proposals on potential areas of focus for the next quadrennial assessment, to be completed in 2018.

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