Well folks it’s official. Another phase out is among us. The world has come together to ban HFC refrigerants such as R-134a, R-404A, and R-410A across the world by the year 2100. Yes, that’s right 2100. While that may sound a ways away it is worth mentioning that the first official date of scheduled phase outs of HFCs begins in 2019, although some countries have already set earlier dates such as the United States on R-404A and R-134a.
In a meeting in October of 2016 that took place in Kigali, Rwanda negotiators from more than one-hundred and seventy countries met together for many days and nights until they all finally came to an agreement on HFC refrigerants.
The goal of this meeting in Rwanda was an amendment to the 1987 Montreal Protocol. The original Montreal Protocol was designed to phase out CFC and HCFC refrigerants such as R-12, R-502, and R-22. These refrigerants all contained Chlorine. After many decades of use it was found that when Chlorine was vented into the atmosphere it attacked, damaged, and eventually caused a hole in the O-Zone layer of the atmosphere. One of the leading contributors to forming the hole in the O-Zone layer were the commonly used CFCs and HCFC refrigerants. In order to solve the problem and to prevent any further damage numerous nations came together in Montreal and formed the Montreal Protocol.
The protocol arranged the phasing out of all of the refrigerants that contained the O-Zone damaging Chlorine. The first refrigerant to go was R-12, then R-502, and then finally in 2010 R-22. (R-22’s final phase out date is in 2020.) It didn’t take long for scientists to notice positive improvements to the atmosphere and to the O-Zone itself. The Montreal Protocol was hailed as a great success story that was moved across over a hundred different countries and nations. To this day it is one of the most successful treaties.
Here is where things get a little murky. As I discussed above the Montreal Protocol was designed, passed, and signed under the guise that it was going to protect the O-Zone layer and combat the Chlorine containing refrigerants. Now, in recent years there was a push by the many countries, including North America, to add an amendment to the treaty. This amendment would focus on HFC refrigerants such as the commonly used R-134a, R-410A, and R-404A. These refrigerants do not contain any Chlorine what so ever. That was the whole point. These refrigerants were the safer choice. These were the environmentally friendly choice.
Well, think again. HFC refrigerants have an extremely high Global Warming Potential, or GWP. GWP is measured by comparing the chemical in question to that of Carbon Dioxide. The higher the GWP of a chemical or refrigerant the more greenhouse gases that it releases into the atmosphere. An example that I like to use is the R-134a refrigerant used in automotive applications. 134a has a GWP of nearly 1,400 compared to Carbon Dioxide’s GWP of 1. Obviously, there is a significant difference there. While the O-Zone is untouched when using HFCs Climate Change is not. The countless use of HFCs across the globe has caused these high GWP refrigerants to be released into the atmosphere. Upon being vented these high GWP refrigerants stick around in the atmosphere and become a large cause of Global Warming.
To me, it looks like these countries, including Obama, took the easy way out. Instead of creating a new multi-nation treaty they instead opted for creating this amendment for HFCs and just latching it on the primary Montreal Protocol agreement. I wrote about this in another article last year that can be found by clicking here. I find it dirty and underhanded. They should have done a new treaty.
The Kigali Amendment
This amendment has been in the making for seven years and there had been numerous meetings over the years. The latest meeting that took place in Rwanda was where the agreement was finally agreed upon and signed. Since this was an amendment to the Montreal Protocol treaty there was no need for the United State’s Senate to review the documents. Instead, it was voted on by the numerous countries and passed without any involvement of the United State’s lawmakers. It didn’t mater that the last time this treaty was voted on was during the Reagan administration. They used the loophole and got around it.
Under the signed agreement developed countries, including the United States, must reduce their use of HFC refrigerants by ten percent by 2019 from 2011-2013 levels, and then by eighty-five percent by 2036. Along with this developed countries will also have to comply with a freeze of HFC consumption levels in the year 2024. By the late 2040’s all developed countries are expected to consume no more than fifteen to twenty percent of their baselines.
Another grouping of developing countries which include China and numerous African countries have committed to starting their transition in 2024. In these developing countries a reduction of ten percent should be achieved by 2029 and will be extended to eighty percent by 2045. A third grouping of countries which include India, Pakistan, and many Middle Eastern countries, must begin their process in the year 2028. Their target is to reduce their usage by ten percent by 2032 and then by eighty-five percent by 2047.
To top it all off the richer countries, including the US, will be expected to help finance the transition on the poorer countries. The cost is expected to be in the billions and will consist of grants for research for affordability, more efficient technology, and the development of new alternative refrigerants. The exact dollar amount and what we will be spending it on has not yet been determined. There is another meeting scheduled for 2017 that will provide more details.
In most of my articles I try not to be biased towards one side or the other. However, I feel that in this article that my bias showed through. All of the governments who signed this agreement all claim that by going forward with the phase out of HFC refrigerants that we will see a 0.5 degrees drop in temperature over the next century. They hail this as a huge win for the fight against Global Warming. I on the other hand can only see all of the cost and all of the headaches that this will cost not only cause in this country but across the world. The mere fact that we will be spending billions of dollars on this angers me.
It’s not just about the money though. It is very frustrating to those that are in the industry. It seems like that every five to ten years there is another refrigerant phase out. It is honestly hard to keep up with them all and it never seems like these talking heads can get it right. There is always something wrong with the current refrigerant that we are using. I’ll bet any of you good money that in another ten or fifteen years there will be a push to phase out HFOs or Hydrocarbon refrigerants. Something will be found out about them and the whole world will go bonkers like they did for CFCs, HCFCS, and now HFCS. It’s an endless cycle that only seems to get more expensive.
Regardless of how you feel I hope you enjoyed my quick summary of what happened this October and what can be expected in the future on HFC refrigerants.