HCFC phaseout


in Law, Politics, The environment

While international negotiations on climate change don’t seem to be going anywhere at the moment, some further tightening has been agreed within the regime that combats substances that deplete the ozone layer (the Vienna Convention and Montreal Protocol). The parties have decided to speed up the elimination of hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), which were permitted as temporary substitutes for the chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) that destroy ozone most energetically.

The BBC reports that:

The US administration says the new deal will be twice as effective as the Kyoto Protocol in controlling greenhouse gas emissions.

This seems quite implausible to me. HFCs, PFCs, and SF6 collectively contribute about 1% of anthropogenic warming. As such, their complete elimination would have a fairlylimited effect. In addition, the Vienna Convention process always envisioned their elimination, so there is nothing substantially new about this announcement, other than the timing. An agreement for eliminating HCFCs has been in place since 1992:

1996 – production freeze
2004 – 35% reduction
2010 – 65% reduction
2015 – 90% reduction
2020 – 99.5% reduction
2030 – elimination

While it does seem that this timeline isn’t being followed, it remains to be seen whether this new announcement will have any effect on that.

The Kyoto Protocol targets a six different greenhouse gases, most importantly the carbon dioxide that constitutes 77% of anthropogenic climate change. If it had succeeded at reducing emissions among Annex I signatories by 5.2%, as planned, it would have been both a significant contribution and an important starting point.

None of this is to say that we shouldn’t welcome the HCFC phaseout. If nothing else, it should help with the recovery of the ozone layer. We just need to be cautious about accepting statements like the one quoted.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Milan September 24, 2007 at 2:49 pm

Here is a UNEP release:

“Nations signed up to an accelerated freeze and phase out of substances known as hydrochlorflurocarbons (HCFCs) under the 20 year-old Montreal Protocol– the UNEP treaty established in 1987 to protect the Earth’s ozone layer from chemical attack…

Governments meeting in the Canadian city agreed at the close to freeze production of HCFCs in 2013 and bring forward the final phase-out date of these chemicals by ten years…

HCFCs, which also damage the ozone layer but less than CFCs, were always planned as interim substitutes and were due to be phased out in 2030 by developed countries and in 2040 by developing ones…

Experts estimate that without this week’s agreement, production and consumption of HCFCs may have doubled by 2015 adding to the dual challenges of ozone depletion and climate change…

Under the agreement, productions of HCFCs are to be frozen at the average production levels in 2009-2010 in 2013.

Developed countries have agreed to reduce production and consumption by 2010 by 75 per cent and by 90 per cent by 2015 with final phase out in 2020.

Developing countries have agreed to cut production and consumption by 10 per cent in 2015; by 35 per cent by 2020 and by 67.5 per cent by 2025 with a final phase-out in 2030.

It was also agreed that a small percentage of the original base line amounting to 2.5 per cent will be allowed in developing countries during the period 2030-2040 for ‘servicing’ purposes.”

Milan September 24, 2007 at 3:40 pm

Summary of Decision to Accelerate the Phase-out of HCFCs

Developing Country Parties:

Base level 2009-2010 average
Freeze on 1 Jan 2013
10% reduction on 1 Jan 2015
35% on 1 Jan 2020
67,5% on 1 Jan 2025
Continuing use of 2.5% from 2030 to 2040

Developed Country Parties:

75% reduction on 1 Jan 2010
90% on 1 Jan 2015
Continuing use of 0.5% from 2020 to 2030

Full decision
(page 3, para F)

. September 24, 2007 at 7:06 pm

Last ozone-destroying chemicals to be phased out

21 September 2007
NewScientist.com news service
Debora MacKenzie

“One of the last major ozone-destroying chemicals looks set to be phased out by the signatory countries of the Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer.

The imminent deal could be as good for the climate as for ozone, and could mark a turnaround in US willingness to use the international treaty system to deal with climate-related issues.

The meeting in Montreal of the 191 member countries marks the 20th anniversary of the protocol, which phases out various chemicals that deplete stratospheric ozone. The main item of business was the phase-out of hydrochlorofluorocarbon-22 (HCFC-22).”

Milan September 27, 2007 at 9:50 am

Grist has a piece on this

“At the conference marking the 20th anniversary of the Montreal Protocol last week, some 191 nations agreed to a faster phaseout of ozone-depleting chemicals than had originally been negotiated in 1987. Hydrochlorofluorocarbons, or HCFCs, emerged in the 1990s as a less-ozone-damaging alternative to CFCs, which did truly nasty things to the ozone layer. But HCFCs also turned out to be a potent greenhouse gas a few thousand times more potent than carbon dioxide. Whoops! However, at the conference last week, developed countries agreed to reduce both production and consumption of HCFCs by 75 percent by 2010, 90 percent by 2015, and finally ending their use in 2020 — 10 years earlier than in the previous agreement.”

Milan September 27, 2007 at 9:51 am

One of the comments below that entry:

“Sorry to be unimpressed by the US agreement on this one, but it most likely is because the US doesn’t produce any of it. The big shocker with this agreement is that the developing countries only need to reduce 10% by 2015…they are the ones making this stuff now! This means this agreement does very little, except lip service. By the way, China is making so much money from Japanese who are buying HCFC carbon credits that it is more profitable for them to keep producing the stuff and then turn it into a carbon credit, than to stop polluting! Wake up world……….”

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