By Rajan Rajendran
For more than a year, we’ve discussed the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) actions to prohibit the use of hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants in certain commercial refrigeration and air conditioning applications, as well as expand the list of low-global warming potential (GWP) alternatives. But while these actions have focused on U.S. and North American initiatives, the move to limit HFCs is also picking up steam on a global level.
Last November at the 27th international meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Article 5 (developing) and non-Article 5 (developed) nations alike came together and committed to reduce worldwide greenhouse gas emissions from HFCs.1
The meeting concluded with an agreement to phase down HFC consumption by completing an amendment to the Montreal Protocol in 2016.
It’s an important reminder that a global commitment to responsible environmental stewardship is nothing new. First signed on September 16, 1987, the Montreal Protocol treaty has served as an example of decades-long cooperation among world governments, industry and the environmental community. With every country within the United Nations charter a signatory to the agreement, it is considered one of the most effective multi-lateral environmental treaties ever negotiated.
The original treaty’s first order of business was to achieve a rapid phase-out of ozone-depleting substances — particularly chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) — by replacing them with HFC-based alternatives. While scientists are projecting a full restoration of the ozone by 2050,2 they are also cautioning against the continued widespread global use of HFC refrigerants due to their environmental dangers.
As we know, HFCs are used in everything from air conditioners and refrigerators to foam insulation and fire protection systems. And while the U.S. and the European Union are well down the path of phasing out HFC use in specific applications, the demand for these technologies continues to grow in developing countries where they provide added health, safety, comfort and productivity benefits.
The Montreal Protocol’s success was founded on its reliance on sound scientific reviews, ongoing technology assessments and a funding mechanism to assist developing countries. The Parties of the Protocol’s decision to address the HFC issue with an amendment in 2016 is largely focused on helping developing countries make the transition to low-GWP technologies, while accelerating HFC phase-down schedules in developed countries.
While the details of the amendment are still unclear, it is certain that efforts to phase down HFCs will soon have a global driver. Many of us in the U.S. are already in the process of reducing HFCs and therefore have a head start in making this transition. As negotiations continue to take place throughout the year and an amendment to the Montreal Protocol is drafted, we will keep you updated on its progress and the implications to our industry.
This blog is a summary of the article Montreal Protocol Commits to HFC Management Amendment from our recent edition of E360 Outlook. Click here to learn more about the amendment to the Montreal Protocol.