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Recent International Developments Under the Montreal Protocol

Fact Sheets Available on Transitioning to Low-GWP Alternatives

2014 North American Amendment Proposal to Address HFCs under the Montreal Protocol

The United States, Canada, and Mexico together submitted a proposal to phase-down consumption and production of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) under the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer in May 2014. Global benefits of the proposal can yield significant reductions of over 90 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2eq) through 2050. 

HFCs are intentionally made fluorinated greenhouse gases used as replacements for ozone-depleting substances. HFCs are used in the same applications where ozone-depleting substances have been used: refrigeration and air-conditioning equipment in homes, other buildings and industrial operations (~55% of total HFC use in 2010) and in air-conditioning in vehicles (~24%). Smaller amounts are used in foam products (~11%), aerosols (~5%), fire protection systems (~4%) and solvents (~1%).

Like the ozone-depleting substances they replace, most HFCs are potent greenhouse gases. For example, the most commonly used HFC, HFC-134a, is 1,430 times more damaging to the climate system than carbon dioxide. Though they represent a small fraction of the current total greenhouse gases, their warming impact is very strong, and their emissions are projected to increase nearly twentyfold in the coming decades.

If HFC growth continues on the current trajectory, the increase in HFC emissions is projected to offset much of the climate benefit achieved by phasing out ozone-depleting substances.  HFCs are rapidly increasing in the atmosphere mostly due to increased demand for refrigeration and air conditioning, particularly in developing countries, and because they are the primary substitutes for ozone-depleting substances. HFC emissions increased by about 8% per year from 2004 to 2008 (UNEP, November 2011). The President’s Climate Action Plan, announced in June 2013, laid out a goal to reduce emissions of HFCs via both international leadership and domestic actions and by acting now under the Montreal Protocol, we could stem the growth of HFC use and emissions.

The North American Amendment proposal builds on the momentum and commitments made over the past few years by countries interested in further action to transition to more climate-friendly alternatives. In February, the leaders of the three countries expressed strong commitment to “intensify our efforts to promote an amendment to the Montreal Protocol to phase-down production and consumption of climate-damaging HFCs.”  

The 2014 proposed amendment will first be discussed at a non-decisional Open-Ended Working Group meeting in July, and then formally at the 26th Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol in November.

For more information on the proposed amendment, please visit the United Nations Environment Programme Ozone Secretariat Web siteExit EPA Disclaimer. Links to specific documents are below:

 

United States, China, and Leaders of G-20 Countries Announce Historic Progress Toward a Global Phase Down of HFCs

The White House Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release

September 06, 2013

Today, President Obama reached separate agreements with the G-20 and with China to combat global climate change by addressing the rapid growth in the use and release of climate-damaging hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).

Two statements on HFCs were released today, one in the context of the G20 Leaders’ Declaration and one bilaterally with China.  

First, G-20 leaders expressed their support for initiatives that are complementary to efforts under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), including using the expertise and institutions of the Montreal Protocol to phase down the production and consumption of HFCs, while retaining HFCs within the scope of the UNFCCC and its Kyoto Protocol for accounting and reporting of emissions.

This was agreed by the following countries:  Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey,the United Kingdom, the United States, and the European Union, as well as Ethiopia, Spain, Senegal, Brunei, Kazakhstan, and Singapore.

The G-20 agreement on HFCs reads as follows:

We also support complementary initiatives, through multilateral approaches that include using the expertise and the institutions of the Montreal Protocol to phase down the production and consumption of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), based on the examination of economically viable and technically feasible alternatives.  We will continue to include HFCs within the scope of UNFCCC and its Kyoto Protocol for accounting and reporting of emissions.

Second, building on their June 8 accord on HFCs in Sunnylands, President Obama and President Xi agreed at their bilateral meeting as a next step on HFCs to establish a contact group under the Montreal Protocol to consider issues related to cost-effectiveness, financial and technology support, safety, environmental benefits, and an amendment to the Montreal Protocol.

The agreement between President Obama and President Xi on HFCs reads as follows:

We reaffirm our announcement on June 8, 2013 that the United States and China agreed to work together and with other countries through multilateral approaches that include using the expertise and institutions of the Montreal Protocol to phase down the production and consumption of HFCs, while continuing to include HFCs within the scope of UNFCCC and its Kyoto Protocol provisions for accounting and reporting of emissions. We emphasize the importance of the Montreal Protocol, including as a next step through the establishment of an open-ended contact group to consider all relevant issues, including financial and technology support to Article 5 developing countries, cost effectiveness, safety of substitutes, environmental benefits and an amendment. We reiterate our firm commitment to work together and with other countries to agree on a multilateral solution.

Background:  

HFCs are potent greenhouse gases used in refrigerators, air conditioners, and industrial applications. While they do not deplete the ozone layer, many are highly potent greenhouse gases whose use is growing rapidly as replacements for ozone-depleting substances being phased out under the Montreal Protocol. Left unabated, HFC emissions could grow to nearly 20 percent of carbon dioxide emissions by 2050, a serious climate mitigation concern.

The Montreal Protocol was established in 1987 to protect the ozone layer. Every country in the world is a party to the Protocol, and it has successfully phased out or is in the process of phasing out several key classes of chemicals, including chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), and halons. The transitions out of CFCs and HCFCs provide major ozone layer protection benefits, but the unintended consequence is the rapid current and projected future growth of climate-damaging HFCs.

For the past four years, the United States, Canada, and Mexico have proposed an amendment to the Montreal Protocol to phase down the production and consumption of HFCs. The amendment would reduce consumption and production and control byproduct emissions of HFCs in all countries, and includes a financial assistance component for countries that can already access the Protocol’s Multilateral Fund.  The proposal leaves unchanged the reporting and accounting provisions of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and Kyoto Protocol on HFC emissions.

Reducing HFCs are an important domestic component of the President’s Climate Action Plan, as well.  For example, the Administration has already acted domestically by including a flexible and powerful incentive in fuel efficiency and carbon pollution standards for cars and trucks to encourage automakers to reduce HFC leakage and transition away from the most potent HFCs in vehicle air conditioning systems. Moving forward, the Environmental Protection Agency will use its authority through the Significant New Alternatives Policy Program to encourage private sector investment in low-emissions technology by identifying and approving climate-friendly chemicals while prohibiting certain uses of the most harmful chemical alternatives. In addition, the President has directed his Administration to purchase cleaner alternatives to HFCs whenever feasible and transition over time to equipment that uses safer and more sustainable alternatives.
 

United States and China Agree to Work Together on Phase Down of HFCs

The White House Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release

June 08, 2013

Today, President Obama and President Xi agreed on an important new step to confront global climate change. For the first time, the United States and China will work together and with other countries to use the expertise and institutions of the Montreal Protocol to phase down the consumption and production of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), among other forms of multilateral cooperation. A global phase down of HFCs could potentially reduce some 90 gigatons of CO2 equivalent by 2050, equal to roughly two years worth of current global greenhouse gas emissions.

The agreement between the United States and China reads as follows:

Regarding HFCs, the United States and China agreed to work together and with other countries through multilateral approaches that include using the expertise and institutions of the Montreal Protocol to phase down the production and consumption of HFCs, while continuing to include HFCs within the scope of UNFCCC and its Kyoto Protocol provisions for accounting and reporting of emissions.

HFCs are potent greenhouse gases used in refrigerators, air conditioners, and industrial applications. While they do not deplete the ozone layer, many are highly potent greenhouse gases. Their use is growing rapidly as replacements for ozone-depleting substances that are being phased out under the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. Left unabated, HFC emissions growth could grow to nearly 20 percent of carbon dioxide emissions by 2050, a serious climate mitigation concern.

The Montreal Protocol was established in 1987 to facilitate a global approach to combat depletion of the stratospheric ozone layer. Every country in the world is a party to the Protocol, and it has successfully phased out or is in the process of phasing out several key classes of chemicals, including chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), and halons. The transitions out of CFCs and HCFCs provide major ozone layer protection benefits, but the unintended consequence is the rapid current and projected future growth of climate-damaging HFCs.

For the past four years, the United States, Canada, and Mexico have proposed an amendment to the Montreal Protocol to phase down the production and consumption of HFCs. The amendment would gradually reduce consumption and production and control byproduct emissions of HFCs in all countries, and require reporting in these areas. The amendment includes a financial assistance component for countries that can already access the Protocol’s Multilateral Fund, and leaves unchanged the reporting and accounting provisions of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and Kyoto Protocol on HFC emissions.

 

Accomplishments from the 19th Meeting of the Parties (2007) in Montreal, Canada

Environmental Benefits of the New, Stronger HCFC Phaseout Agreement

At the 19th Meeting of the Parties in Montreal on September 17-21, 2007, the Parties agreed to more aggressively phase out ozone-depleting hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs). The agreement to adjust the phase-out schedule for HCFCs is expected to reduce emissions of HCFCs to the atmosphere by 47 percent, compared to the prior commitments under the treaty over the 30-year period of 2010 to 2040. For the developing countries, the agreement means there will be about a 58 percent reduction in HCFCs emission over the 30 year period.

Read more about the HCFC reductions for the U.S., or view a graph showing the HCFC reductions in developing countries, reflecting the agreement at the 19th Meeting in Montreal.

The climate benefits of the stronger HCFC agreement will depend on technology choices of the transition from HCFCs during the 30 year time frame of the HCFC phase out. The estimated climate benefit of the new, stronger HCFC phase out may be as much as 9,000 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MMTCO2eq), or the equivalent of removing the climate emissions from 55 million U.S. passenger cars each year, for the next 30 years. This means the new, stronger HCFC agreement is equivalent to eliminating the annual greenhouse gas emissions from 40 percent of all U.S. passenger cars each year, for the next 30 years.

Another way of explaining the climate benefit of the new, stronger HCFC phaseout agreement is to say it is equivalent to eliminating the climate emissions from the electricity needed by 40 million U.S. households each year, for the next 30 years, which would be eliminating the climate emissions from the electricity needed by 40 percent of U.S. households each year, for the next 30 years.

Read analyses of climate benefits of the overall HCFC agreement at the 19th Meeting in Montreal.

Read analyses of ozone and climate benefits of the U.S. proposal (PDF) (43 pp, 262K, About PDF).

Read more about the HCFC phaseout in the U.S.


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