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Montreal Protocol Commits to HFC Management Amendment

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.

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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.


References

  1. http://www.unep.org/newscentre/default.aspx?DocumentID=26854&ArticleID=35543
  2. http://www3.epa.gov/ozone/science/makemore.html

HFCs and the Montreal Protocol

In February, the EPA hosted a stakeholder meeting to discuss a proposal for HFC refrigerants in the Montreal Protocol.  The United States, along with our neighbors to the north and south, will likely propose an amendment to add HFCs to the Montreal Protocol.  The goal is to carefully and slowly phase down HFC production, but not a complete phase out.   The phase-down schedules are still being discussed, as is the issue of what to do with HFO refrigerants.  Large developing countries such as India, China and Brazil may oppose universal HFC phase-downs.

Most of what our industry does with refrigerants today stems from the Montreal Protocol.  The air conditioning and refrigeration industry has supported global efforts to protect the environment by introducing non-chlorine-containing refrigerants. The Montreal Protocol, established in 1987 and later revised, provides guidelines for individual country legislation, setting timetables for the phase-out of chlorine containing refrigerants.  But today there is more attention on climate change and reducing greenhouse gases. Carbon dioxide is by far the most significant greenhouse gas, produced mainly by burning fossil fuels for electrical generation and transportation. Since refrigeration equipment consumes energy, energy-efficient designs are important to reducing carbon dioxide production.

The effort started with an emphasis on cutting chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) refrigerants. Work in the late 1980s and early 1990s centered on eliminating CFCs which were used in foam blowing, cleaning and refrigeration applications and centrifugal chillers for air conditioning. By the end of 1995, developed countries stopped producing CFCs, and they are no longer used in new equipment today. These actions have significantly reduced atmospheric chlorine and are starting to repair the ozone layer.

In a recent issue of the NEWS (ACHR), I mentioned “The U.S., Canada and Mexico have proposed an amendment to the Montreal Protocol to address global warming with a phase down of HFCs. This effort has been in place for a few years now. While there are 107 other countries supporting it, there are other, more developing countries like India, China and Brazil who oppose. One barrier often mentioned is that the Montreal Protocol has historically had a very clear mission of addressing ozone depletion, but climate change is outside of its charter.”  Read the entire article at: http://digital.bnpmedia.com/display_article.php?id=1366941

However this plays out in 2013, we’ll be watching international, federal, and state regulations on greenhouse gases and working within in the industry to make smart decisions for today and the future.

Rajan Rajendran, Ph.D
Vice President, Engineering Services and Sustainability
Emerson Climate Technologies

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