Recent International Developments Under the Montreal Protocol
Fact Sheets Available on Transitioning to Low-GWP Alternatives
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.
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.