In this edition of the Weekly Compliance Digest, we cover an amendment to the Montreal Protocol that was agreed to by more than 170 countries at a recent UNEP summit in Rwanda.
What is it?
The original Montreal Protocol, officially known as the “Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer“, was designed to reduce and phase out the production of ozone depleting substances in order to reduce their abundance in the atmosphere, and thus protect the Earth’s ozone layer. The Montreal Protocol was agreed on September 16, 1987 and entered into force on January 1, 1989. Since its entry into force, the Montreal Protocol has been revised and adjusted eight times: in 1990 (London), 1991 (Nairobi), 1992 (Copenhagen), 1993 (Bangkok), 1995 (Vienna), 1997 (Montreal), 1998 (Australia), and 1999 (Beijing). The ozone-depleting substances covered by the Montreal Protocol include chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs).
As a result of the Montreal Protocol, the production and consumption of the majority of harmful ozone-depleting chemicals has been successfully phased out, in both developed and developing countries. Over 98% of the consumption of all ozone-depleting substances has now been phased out, according to the United Nations Environment Programme’s Ozone Secretariat.
The Montreal Protocol is considered by many as a model for international cooperation on climate change and environmental pollution matters, because of its widespread adoption and implementation. Some people go even further and consider it as one of the most successful international agreements ever.
What is the latest revision?
The Montreal Protocol did not cover hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which replaced CFCs and HCFCs. While HFCs do not harm the ozone layer, unlike CFCs and HCFCs, they are nevertheless greenhouse gases. HFCs have a high global warming potential (GWP) and are thousands of times more potent than carbon dioxide, which is comparable to the GWP of CFCs and HCFCs. HFCs are found in refrigerators, air conditioners and aerosol sprays. Use of HFCs is rising in developing countries due to increased demand for refrigeration and air conditioning. In November 2015, an agreement was reached to begin working on an amendment to the Montreal Protocol that would reduce production and consumption of HFCs.
On October 15, 2016, representatives from more than 170 countries, meeting at the summit of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in Kigali, Rwanda, reached an agreement to extend the Montreal Protocol and apply it to HFCs as well. According to articles from the New York Times and International Business Times, the agreement will divide the world into three parts:
- Developed countries, including the U.S. and EU member states, will begin reducing the use of HFCs incrementally, initially cutting it down by 10% by 2019, and reducing it to 15% of a 2011-2013 baseline by 2036.
- Much of the rest of the world, comprised of over 100 developing countries and including China, Brazil and all of Africa, will freeze HFC use by 2024, reducing it to 20% of 2021 levels by 2045.
- A small group of the world’s hottest countries (India, Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait) will be required to freeze HFC use by 2028 and reduce it to about 15% of 2025 levels by 2047.
What is next?
While the agreement to have an amendment to the Montreal Protocol that phases out HFCs is legally-binding, it has not yet entered into force. However, the revision to the Montreal Protocol could give rise to a renewed focus on national regulations in various countries to reduce the use and emissions of HFCs, as well as a focus on the development of refrigerant substitutes. Even before the agreement, on September 26, 2016 the U.S. EPA had announced a and extending the regulations to HFCs. The final rule updates existing requirements related to CFCs and HCFCs, and extends them to HFCs.
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To learn more about EHS, Sustainability and Risk trends, we encourage you to read the NAEM 2016 Trends Report: Planning for a Sustainable Future, which presents the ideas and issues that will shape EHS and Sustainability Management in 2016 and beyond.