Montreal Protocol Rejects HFCs as Substitutes for Ozone Depleting Substances: Global Climate Effort to Avoid Super Greenhouse Gases Gaining Momentum

Apr 24, 2012, 14:51 ET from Environmental Investigation Agency

EIA News Release

MONTREAL, April 24, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The 66th Meeting of the Multilateral Fund (MLF) concluded with clear signals that HFCs are increasingly unacceptable as substitutes for ozone depleting substances (ODS) being phased out under the Montreal Protocol.

Last week's actions by the MLF to implement the first phase of the global HCFC phase-out reinforce a growing international trend to only approve and finance climate-friendly compounds and technologies as the world's nations continue efforts to eliminate the use of ODS and restore the Earth's ozone layer. The current accelerated phase out of HCFCs will be completed by 2030 and recent efforts are increasingly focused on ensuring that the recovery of the ozone layer does not occur at the expense of exacerbating climate change. 

"It is imperative that efforts to restore the ozone layer do not contribute to accelerating global climate change," said Natasha Hurley of the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA).  "An enormous part of the solution to climate change is to make the right decisions for the future and stop repeating the mistakes of the past". 

Developed nations that act as donors to finance the ODS phase-out in developing countries began replacing HCFCs several years ago, while developing nations that represent the biggest and fastest growing markets for refrigerants are just beginning their own programs to eliminate HCFCs – the last group of fluorinated chemicals responsible for the ozone holes over the Antarctic and Arctic polar regions.   HCFCs used in the US, EU and Japan have already largely replaced with HFCs – super greenhouse gases which do not damage the ozone but which are powerful global warming agents.  The rapid increase and availability of alternative chemicals and technologies that have little to no impact on climate means that developing countries do not have to choose the same path, and that donor nations do not have to finance climate damaging technologies.

"This is an opportunity to implement a de facto phase-out of HFCs for most of the planet and largely eliminate a class of chemicals that have already caused one sixth of global warming," stated Samuel LaBudde, Senior Atmospheric Campaigner with EIA.  He added, "Paying countries to phase-in super greenhouse gases like HFCs will sabotage and negate efforts to halt climate change, and is as irrational as it is unnecessary."

HFCs are the fastest growing greenhouse gas with best scientific analysis estimating that by 2050, HFCs could annually constitute up to 20% of all greenhouse gas emissions. 

Last year, the US, EU, Japan, Canada, Australia and New Zealand pledged to contribute nearly $450 million to finance the ODS phase-out in developing nations over the next three years.  Because ozone depleting substances are also powerful greenhouse gases (GHGs), the Montreal Protocol has already prevented over 200 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent (GtsCO2e) emissions and delayed the onset of acute climate change by more than a decade.  This equates to at least 20 times more GHG mitigation than has been achieved under the UNFCCC process and was accomplished for less than what it costs to prevent a single gigatonne of emissions under the international climate regime.

With international climate talks unlikely to deliver a global deal before 2020, EIA and other NGOs are leading international efforts to take emergency interim action on mitigating emissions of non-CO2 greenhouse gases, including HFCs, that are responsible for almost half of global warming.  Action to address this "forgotten 50%" could delay the onset of acute climate change and buy time for international efforts to arrest and decrease CO2 emissions arising from fossil fuel use, deforestation and poor agricultural practices.  The most cost-effective, achievable and near-term opportunity for significant GHG mitigation is to phase-out HFCs under the Montreal Protocol as has been proposed by Micronesia, and by Canada, Mexico and the US, and would prevent some 100 Gts CO2e emissions (about 3 years of global fossil fuel emissions) by 2050.  The Proposals to begin an international HFC phase-out under the Montreal Protocol have been put forward every year since 2009, but repeatedly opposed by China and India. 

Proposals by Colombia, India, Kuwait and some 15 other nations to convert from ODS to chemicals with low global warming potentials (GWP) were approved at the MLF meeting.  Thailand submitted the largest conversion to high-GWP HFCs in their air conditioning sector – this proposal and several others were rejected, and it was recommended these countries pursue efforts in other sectors where low-GWP alternatives exist and then re-apply to the MLF for financing.

While last week's approved conversions will prevent some 10 million tonnes of CO2e emissions annually, the MLF did approve the use of high-GWP refrigerants in several countries including Argentina.  These conversions were unnecessary but the MLF's limited fiscal resources and inadequate crediting for the climate benefits derived from conversions to low-GWP alternatives continue to result in some transitions that use HFCs.  Given that transitions to dead-end and climate-damaging technologies that use HFCs will ultimately require yet another phase-out and twenty-year massive funding cycle to protect climate, the Multilateral Fund should be given express instruction and adequate resources to maximize transitions away from HFCs to climate friendly alternatives. 

For more on the Montreal Protocol, HFCs, ODS and the Multilateral Fund:, or contact:
Samuel LaBudde, +1 202 483-6621 / +1 415 632-7174/ 
Natasha Hurley,  +44 (0) 20 7354 7960 /

SOURCE Environmental Investigation Agency