The Ozone-Climate Opportunity: An Overview

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What better way to celebrate the Montreal Protocol’s 20th anniversary than to build on the treaty’s successes, and make a major contribution to protecting the Earth’s climate and ozone layer? Concerted leadership by leaders in all sectors – including government, non-governmental organizations, business and the media – is now required to convert this opportunity into a reality. Contact us to find out how you can help.

Ozone affects climate, and climate affects ozone.  The linkages between ozone depletion and climate change are complex.  But we do know that HCFCs both deplete the ozone layer and contribute to global warming.  Phasing them out, and implementing climate-friendly substitutes and energy efficiency measures, constitutes a major opportunity to protect the Earth’s ozone layer and climate.

What are HCFCs?

HCFCs are a class of gasses used as refrigerants in air conditioners and refrigerators, as blowing agents to make plastic foams, and for other purposes. HCFCs contribute to the erosion of the Earth’s protective ozone layer.  HCFCs are also potent greenhouse gases.

How do HCFCs affect the climate?

Like other greenhouse gasses, HCFCs trap heat in the Earth’s atmosphere, contributing to global warming. The most widely used chemical, HCFC-22, traps 1780 times more heat per kilogramme than carbon dioxide (known as its global warming potential, GWP).  The combined climate emissions of HCFC-22 and its HFC-23 by-product, with GWP of 11,700, are projected to reach 1 GtCO2-eq. by 2015.

How are HCFCs regulated?

HCFCs have been considered by the Montreal Protocol as ozone layer-friendly alternatives to CFCs. Under the Montreal Protocol, developed countries are to phase out the production and consumption of HCFCs in 2015, while developing countries are to freeze production levels in 2015 with a complete phase-out in 2040.

Why advance the phase-out of HCFCs?

Production is growing unexpectedly fast in many developing countries such as China and India. Advancing the phase-out of HCFCs can help curb this growth, and offers major climate and ozone benefits. The goal of current proposals is to avoid unnecessary HCFC growth, support the phase-out with financial assistance, promote the use of available substitutes and accelerate reductions in both developed and developing countries alike.

Who will pay for an accelerated phase-out?

Adjustments proposed by developing countries to accelerate the HCFC phase-out are explicitly subject to adequate financial assistance from the Multilateral Fund (MLF), the Montreal Protocol’s funding mechanism.  Developed countries provide financial assistance to developing countries through the MLF to cover the incremental costs of compliance with the Protocol’s control measures.

As a result of the significant ozone and climate benefits of the accelerated HCFC phase-out, and the strong support from the G8, it is anticipated that developed countries will agree to replenish the MLF in 2008 at appropriate levels for the 2009-2011 cycle and beyond to implement the new HCFC control measures that accelerate the phase-out.

Preliminary estimates indicate that accelerating the HCFC phase-out will cost between U.S. $3 and $5 billion over perhaps 20 years.  When considering the costs of phasing-out HCFCs, it is important to note that throughout the history of the MP, per unit costs of phasing out ODS have fallen over time.  The costs of the phase-out are low compared to other means for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Will the phase-out really yield climate benefits?

The potential climate benefits range from 17.5 to 25.5 GtCO2-eq. by 2050; the actual climate benefits will depend upon policy leadership and active management of the transition out of HCFCs to encourage use of zero or low GWP substitutes, and to increase energy efficiency. 

The opportunity to secure cost-effective, lasting climate and ozone benefits are there.  Realizing the full benefits of a phase out requires an understanding of the science as well as significant policy leadership within the Montreal Protocol.