I wrote in a previous article about how India has finally come out in favor of phasing out HFC refrigerants under the Montreal Protocol. (Former article is here.) Well now India has formally submitted an amendment to the United Nations to amend the Montreal Protocol to include HFC refrigerants. This amendment was submitted a week before a climate meeting in Bangkok.
India along with the United States, Mexico, and Canada have all submitted amendments to phase out HFC refrigerants across industrial nations in the next twenty to twenty-five years. In industrial nations the goal is to only be using fifteen percent in 2035 of what we currently are using between 2013-2015. So, if we were using one-hundred tons of refrigerant in 2015 the goal for 2035 would be only using fifteen tons. This seems rather reasonable over a twenty year period, but work needs to begin now.
The proposed amendment is a little more lax for developing countries. Developing countries would still be held to that fifteen percent number but instead of 2035 as a goal year their goal is by 2050 and that fifteen percent would be measured off of their numbers from 2028-2030. The thinking is that these nations are still developing so they have not reached their full potential when it comes to HFC consumption.
In 2028-2030 the developing nations’ infrastructure would have been built up enough to rival some of the industrial nations. So, their progress won’t be seen for another twenty years after everyone else. Having this in for developing countries should help the less industrious countries not feel like they are being punished and may in fact buy votes from them and get this amendment passed without any major issues.
I posted a link above to the full in depth amendment proposal that India submitted but I’ll go ahead and do a quick summary here as well so you don’t have to dig through all of those pages of jargon and legal speak.
Here is what we have:
- There are nineteen HFC refrigerants proposed to be phased out. This includes all of the popular ones such as R-134a, R-410A, R-404A, and many more.
- HCFC/CFC refrigerants still take priority over HFCs. So, if you HAVE to use one or the other it is preferred that you use HFCs.
- Financial Mechanisms will be involved to compensate those companies/people involved in loss of business. I’m not entirely sure where that money will come from, but hey it’s in the amendment. Some of the compensation benefits would go towards:
- Compensation for loss profit at HFC plants and factories.
- Full conversion costs –
- This will include the conversion of a HFC production plan over to more GWP friendly refrigerants.
- Funding for the service sector that will include training, education, and development of service personnel on the new lower GWP alternative refrigerants.
- As I stated above the goal year for developed countries is 2035, so twenty years from now and 2050 for the lesser developed countries.
The Montreal Protocol is a treaty that was signed all the way back in 1987. (I was just barely a year old at the time!) Back in the 80’s there was an alarm bell that went out due to the O-Zone layer being depleted at an increasingly fast rate. The O-Zone layer acts as a shield from the sun’s radiation and heat. Without it the sun could cause substantial damage to people, animals, and plants across the world. Not to mention warming the entire planet.
After years of research one of the biggest culprits in damaging the O-Zone was found to be the chemical Chlorine. When Chlorine gets into the atmosphere it attacks or depletes the O-Zone layer. After years of Chlorine being used daily the O-Zone layer began to form a hole. This caused widespread panic across the scientific community. The Montreal Protocol was formed to stop the use of Chlorine products and was signed in and ratified by over one-hundred and ninety countries. It is widely recognized as one of the most successful mufti-nation treaties in the world.
Guess what products were found to have Chlorine? You got it. Refrigerants such as CFCs and HCFCs. R-12, R-22, and R-502. The push was on to get these commonly used refrigerants banned across the world and banned fast!
- R-12 was the first to go. R-12 was commonly used in most automotive and vehicle applications. If you had a vehicle from the 80s chances are it took R-12 gas for it’s refrigerant. R-12 was phased in 1994 and replaced with the HFC R-134a.
- Next was R-502. It’s phase hit in 1995. R-502 wasn’t nearly as popular as R-12. It’s primary use was mainly for super market freezers, ice machines, and refrigerated transport. It was replaced with the HFC R-404A.
- Last was R-22. R-22’s phaseout began in 2010. R-22 was used primarily for all home and commercial building air conditioners. It was extremely wide spread throughout the world and if your AC unit outside of your house is older than six years chances are you still have R-22 in use. R-22 will b completely phased out in 2020. It’s replacement is the HFC R-410A.
Are you seeing a pattern here? I am. It looks to me that we phased out of all of these scary CFC/HCFC refrigerants and replaced them with the new friendly HFCs. But wait! These HFCs aren’t so friendly after all. Turns out they’re just as bad as the CFCs that we just phased out. Except this time they don’t damage the O-Zone they just put out a ton of Global Warming Potential greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. So, now this O-Zone that we were protecting is shielding in all of this greenhouse gas from these new HFC refrigerants and is turn making the earth warmer.
So, here we go again. We’re going to ban a whole new type of refrigerants to save the environment. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not opposed to saving the environment but it just seems like we’ve been throwing darts at a wall. Is there any real plan here? Or, are we just guessing and hoping that we’ll phase out the right refrigerant? Who would have thought that by phasing out the bad refrigerant we would bring in a whole new problem?
The worst of it is that we’re phasing out these HFCs under the Montreal Protocol. You know, the protocol that was specifically designed to phase out Chlorine products to save the O-Zone? Well, now we’re going to be using this same amendment to phase out HFCs refrigerants even though they have NOTHING to do with O-Zone depletion and that they do not contain Chlorine. Seems awfully fishy if you ask me.
But, no one wants to go through the work again of forming a new treaty and getting all of the countries to sign it. So, they just keep sticking amendments to the Montreal Protocol instead of going through the work and creating a new binding treaty in the United Nations.
Nothing has been finalized yet. Last year the North American countries tried to add this amendment to the Protocol but it was eventually stalled and did not end up getting passed. This year’s meeting is in Dubai and is set to take place in November. In the past the main resistance was from China and India but now that they are both on board the only resistance left in the world is middle eastern countries. Which is kind of comical if you think about it as the yearly meeting is being held in Dubai.
I’m not the most versed in United Nation/Montreal Protocol politics but from everything that I’ve read the amendment can’t really be stopped this year. On top of India and North American countries submitting an amendment it is widely speculated that the European Union will be submitting a formal amendment as well. So, the only opposition that you’re going to have is from the smaller countries in the Middle East. But at this point the momentum is leaning towards phase out and I don’t see much stopping it.