Last week the French President Francois Hollande held a Climate Conference in Paris backed by the United Nations. This conference involved many countries from across the globe and one of it’s main objectives was to hash out an agreement on an amendment to the Montreal Protocol that would ban HFC refrigerants across the world.
HFCs are the fastest growing group of greenhouse gases in the world and the usage has only been going up. Per year it is estimated that HFC usage rises by ten to fifteen percent. Their usage has been ranked as one of the top ten contributors to Global Warming and climate change. By approving the amendment to globally phase out HFC refrigerants it could save 1.1-1.7 gigatonnes of Carbon Dioxide by the year 2030. (This is approximately what Canada out puts per year.)
With all of that being said I at least have to mention the original purpose of the Montreal Protocol. Way back when it was first being crafted in the late 1980s it’s original intent was to phase out O-Zone depleting substances such as Chlorine. Chlorine was found in all CFC and HCFC refrigerants such as R-12, R-502, and R-22. This treaty was passed and CFC/HCFCs were phased out across the world, as you all know.
But now, now they want to add this HFC amendment to the same Montreal Protocol treaty. Even though HFCs do not contribute to O-Zone depletion the governments of the world are still pushing to add the HFC refrigerants to the Montreal Protocol to be phased out. Seems kind of like the lazy way to do it, eh? Let’s not bother with making a whole new treaty designed to attack the Global Warming Potential chemicals, instead let’s just add to this one we made nearly thirty years ago.
The HFC Amendments
At this point in time there are four different amendment proposals that have been submitted by varying countries including the United States, Mexico, Canada, the European Union, India, and the Pacific Island States. Mexico, Canada, and the United States formed a joint amendment. (I wrote about this earlier this year.)
The European Union filed a joint amendment as well in early 2015. On top of that a collection Pacific Island States filed a joint amendment as well. But the biggest news is that earlier this year India filed it’s own proposed amendment to phase out HFCs. This is big news as in the past India has been of the biggest opponents to phasing out HFC refrigerants. (Article found here.)
The purpose of this July meeting in Paris was to get more of a framework built between the four amendments prior to the November meeting in Dubai. As it stands today there are four different amendments all with different guidelines, rules, and restrictions. In order for an amendment to be voted and agreed upon there needs to be a consolidated amendment between all countries.
Opposition to Phase-Out
In the past the major opposition to phasing out HFCs came from China and India. There are other countries that were opposed but none that were the size of the giants that are China and India. Late last year Obama met with Chinese officials and after some time he was able to negotiate a climate agreement from China. This was a big deal, as China has been a staunch opponent to advancing any of these amendments.
On top of the promising news from China, India has also made an about face on their stance. A few months ago India announced that they are now in favor of phasing out HFC refrigerant across their country. Not only that, but they even took it a step further and submitted their own Montreal Protocol amendment. (Article here.)
With India and China out of the way there only stood a small scattering of opposing countries. These countries include Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Pakistan, and a handful of other smaller middle eastern countries. In the past few months Saudi Arabia has been facing intense criticism from the ‘African Group,’ which has been in favor of the HFC phase-out.
During the meeting the Saudis set complex conditions in order for them to be in favor of the HFC phasedown. After a week of stalling and negotiating the Saudis eventually softened their stances and conditions. I’m not entirely sure why but it is most likely either due from pressure by the African Group or from other countries outside of Africa. It looked like the Saudis were close to siding for the amendments.
But then Pakistan happened. Pakistan outright blocked any further action on the amendments. They stopped the beginnings of any formal negotiations stating that alternatives to HFC refrigerants would not work well in their hotter climate. This seems like an odd complaint as many other countries in just as hot if not hotter environments have jumped on board with these amendments.
Pakistan held firm though throughout the negotiations and did not concede to any changes. There has been another climate meeting scheduled before the November 1st meeting in Dubai. The meeting in Dubai is when all of the Montreal Protocol parties formally meet and will end up voting on an amendment. (If there is on hammered out by then.) The hope with this new meeting that was scheduled is to get Pakistan on board before the Dubai gathering. We’ll see what happens…
When Will the Amendment Be Added?
At this point it’s anybody’s guess. Towards the beginning of this year supporters of the amendments were getting excited. It looked like a deal could be pushed through at the Montreal Protocol meeting in Dubai. There would be a new amendment by November, 2015.
But, as time has progressed it’s looking less and less likely that it will be approved in November, 2015. After all, that is only three months away. I do not foresee Pakistan turning that quickly, but who knows? Maybe they’ll get a nice reward for agreeing to the terms.
I won’t get into too many details here but it is worth mentioning that when the HFC amendment passes the Montreal Protocol it is not going to be like a light switch going from on to off. These governments realize that it would be impossible to switch everybody over to the new alternative refrigerants instantly. Most of these new rules and regulations will not come into play for five, ten, or even fifteen years from now.
So, if it does pass rest assured you will have time to prepare.
No matter how many times the HFC amendments get stalled the fact of the matter is that they are going to be phased out, and soon. Each quarter that passes it seems that the opposition shrinks and shrinks. If I was to guess as to when the amendment would be added to the Montreal Protocol I would guess mid 2016. That should give enough time for the opposing countries to finally cave.
HFOs and Natural Refrigerants are the refrigerants of the future, and they’re coming soon. Will you be ready?
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