by Michael Choi, Summer Intern
Last month, the United States delegation led international efforts to initiate a Hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) amendment to the Montreal Protocol at meetings which took place from July 15th-23rd. The Montreal Protocol, which was adopted on September 16, 1987, is an international agreement to phase out the production and consumption of ozone depleting substances in order to reduce their abundance in the atmosphere and protect the stratospheric ozone. As noted by U.S EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, the Montreal Protocol is regarded “as the most successful environmental treaty” since it has led to the 97% reduction in the production and import of ozone depleting substances throughout the world.
HFCs are fluorinated greenhouse gases that are used commonly in refrigeration, air conditioning, aerosols, fire protection systems and solvents. They have become increasingly prevalent because they serve as a substitute for the ozone-depleting substances that are being phased out under the Montreal Protocol, such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs). Although HFCs have not been proven to directly harm the ozone layer, they are extremely potent greenhouse gases.
The Montreal Protocol can be amended to ban substitutes for ozone depleting substances that harm the environment, even if the substances may not negatively impact the ozone layer. On November 6, 2015, the 197 parties that signed the Montreal Protocol pledged to monitor and limit the usage of HFCs and to pass an amendment by the end of 2016 regarding the phase out of HFCs. The parties did not reach a final agreement on the text of the amendment at last month’s meetings, but they hope to do so by October. According to EIA international, over 100 parties, including the US and EU, have now expressed support for an ambitious agreement with a HFC consumption freeze beginning in 2021.