Recent International Developments Under the Montreal Protocol
Fact Sheets Available on Transitioning to Low-GWP Alternatives
2013 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 April 2013. 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 substitution for ozone-depleting substances. HFC emissions increased by about 8% per year from 2004 to 2008 (UNEP, November 2011). By acting now, we could stem the growth of HFC use and emissions.
The North American Amendment proposal builds on the momentum and commitments made by countries interested in further action to transition to more climate-friendly alternatives.
- Over 100 countries signed declarations to address HFCs under the Montreal Protocol.
- At the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (June 2012), countries agreed to support a gradual phase-down in the consumption and production of HFCs in the outcome document “The Future We Want”.
- The Arctic Council’s Kiruna Declaration (May 2013) urges the Parties to the Montreal Protocol to take action as soon as possible, complementary to the UNFCCC, to phase-down the production and consumption of hydrofluorocarbons, which contribute to the warming of the Arctic region.
- The Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) to Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants (SLCPs), formed in February 2012, is a partnership uniting governments, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations and representatives of civil society and the private sector in the first global effort to treat SLCPs as a collective challenge – with the initial focus on methane, black carbon, and HFCs. The CCAC aims for high-level engagement that supports developing and deploying climate-friendly energy efficient alternatives and technologies, minimizing use and emissions of high GWP HFCs.
The 2013 proposed amendment will first be discussed at a non-decisional Open-Ended Working Group meeting in June, and then formally at the 25th Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol in October.
For more information on the proposed amendment, please visit the United Nations Environment Programme Ozone Secretariat Web site. Links to specific documents are below:
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.
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.