Nearly 200 countries struck an historic deal on October 14th in Kigali, Rwanda at the 28th meeting of the parties to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (MOP28), as the fight against global warming heated up.

The Montreal Protocol treaty, which was originally signed on 16th September 1987 and brought into force on 1st January 1989, has been amended six times throughout its history in order to speed up the phasing out of substances that are destructive to the ozone layer.

And at the MOP28 meeting, dubbed the ‘Kigali Amendment,’ the pact was amended once again – this time ‘making history’ to curb highly potent hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) emissions.

The momentous Kigali Amendment demands all developed countries, including the US and EU, to start to phase down HFCs by 2019 with developing countries such as China, Brazil and the majority of Africa to follow with a freeze of HFC consumption levels in 2024. India, Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait have all agreed to follow suit in 2028.

As a result, all countries are expected to consume no more than 15-20% of their current respective baselines by the late 2040s.

Breakthrough

The breakthrough Montreal Protocol agreement was initially designed to protect the stratospheric ozone layer by banning ozone-depleting coolants and has been labelled as the most successful United Nations (UN) environmental agreement in history, having led to a 98% decrease in the production and use of dangerous ozone-damaging chemicals – namely chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).

It is expected that this latest revision could help to prevent up to 0.5°C of global warming by the end of this century, a move which Ken Gayer, Vice-President and General Manager of Honeywell Fluorine Products, describes as “one of the most significant steps the world can take now to deliver on the goals of the Paris Agreement (COP21).” 

Erik Solheim, UN Environment Chief, reinforced the significance of the Kigali Amendment and stated, “This is much more than the ozone layer and HFCs. It is a clear statement by all world leaders that the green transformation started in Paris is irreversible and unstoppable. It shows the best investments are those in clean, efficient technologies.”

Emissions of HFCs were projected to increase nearly twentyfold in the coming decades according to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), but the Kigali Amendment could be the spark to dampen this upsurge.

Air conditioning

HFCs, typically used in refrigeration and air conditioning applications, are the world’s fastest growing greenhouse gases and have extremely high GWP potentials. The 134a, which is the most commonly use refrigerant in the automobile section, has a GWP of 1,300 – meaning its impact on global warming is 1,300 times that of carbon dioxide (CO2).

Refrigerant expert A-Gas, founded in 1993 to bring more environmentally acceptable solutions than the use of CFCs, has been leading the march towards lower GWP refrigerants by specialising in the supply of the latest low-GWP replacements and developing world-class refrigerant recovery and reclamation facilities.

Ken Logan, Commercial Business Development Director of the A-Gas Group, praised the Kigali Amendment and explained, “The original Montreal Protocol is seen by the UN as the most successful international treaty negotiated and implements in history – regardless of subject matter – so the inclusion of HFCs is an important addition.”

“The Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol will now include an orderly and gradual phasedown of high GWP virgin HFC products under a very similar framework.”

“We were expecting the inclusion of HFCs into the Montreal Protocol and have worked towards this outcome over a long period of time,” Logan added.

Solutions

So, if HFCs are being phased out; what solutions exist to replace them?

Amongst the options is Honeywell’s Solstice® line of low-GWP products; next-generation devices that use environmentally preferable, ultra-low GWP and non-ozone depleting hydrofluoroolefin (HFO) alternatives.

The company predicts that the worldwide adoption of these HFO-based instruments could result in the reduction of more than 475 million metric tonnes of CO2 by 2025 – the same as removing one hundred million cars from the road for a year.

With this in mind, Honeywell is currently investing around $900m in research and development (R&D) as well as new capacity in order to “provide the broadest possible portfolio of solutions available today to help countries achieve aggressive goals to reduce GHG emissions,” Gayer explained.

So with this latest development in the fight against global warming also heating up technological advances for companies in the industry, he concluded, “The amendment is one of the most significant steps the world can take now to deliver on the goals of the Paris Agreement. HFO alternatives to HFCs could help avoid up to 0.5°C of warming by the end of the century.”

Ken Logan of A-Gas will provide an update on the global phasedown of HFCs and how this is influencing industry in Australia, Europe and the US in the February 2017 edition of gasworld magazine.