Context: The USA’s Environmental Protection Agency is sharply limiting domestic production and use of hydrofluorocarbons, highly potent greenhouse gases commonly used in refrigerators and air conditioners.
- The new rule announced is intended to decrease U.S. production and use of HFCs by 85% over the next 15 years, part of a global phaseout designed to slow global warming.
- The administration also is taking steps to crack down on imports of HFCs, greenhouse gases that are thousands of times more powerful than carbon dioxide.
- The rule is expected to reduce harmful emissions by the equivalent of 4.5 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide by 2050.
- Recently, the US President Biden issued an executive order that embraces a 2016 Kigali amendment to the 1987 Montreal Protocol on ozone pollution.
- The 20-year ‘India Cooling Action Plan’, or ICAP, released in 2019: The plan estimates that the national cooling demand would grow eight times in the next 20 years, which would result in a corresponding five to eight-fold rise in the demand for refrigerants that involve the use of HFCs.
- The ICAP aims to bring down the refrigerant demand by 25 to 30 per cent in the next 20 years.
About Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs)
- The HFCs are a set of 19 gases used extensively in the air-conditioning and refrigerant industry.
- Hydrofluorocarbons were introduced as non-ozone depleting alternative to hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).
- While HFCs do not deplete the stratospheric ozone layer, they have high global warming potential ranging from 12 to 14,000, which have adverse impact on climate.
- According to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the average global warming potential of 22 of the most used HFCs is about 2,500 times that of carbon dioxide.
- They often leak through pipes or appliances that use compressed refrigerants and are considered a major driver of global warming.
- Hence, as a problematic Greenhouse gases they were sought to be removed through climate change instruments such as the Kyoto Protocol of 1997 and the 2015 Paris Agreement
- But the Montreal Protocol has been a far more effective and successful agreement than the climate change instruments, thus it was decided to use the Montreal Protocol to phase out HFCs.
The Montreal Protocol
The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, is an international environmental treaty for protection of the Ozone Layer by phasing out the production and consumption of man-made chemicals referred to as ozone depleting substances (ODS).
- ODSs include chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), bromine containing halons and methyl bromide, HCFCs, carbon tetrachloride (CCl4), and methyl chloroform.
The stratospheric ozone\ layer protects humans: and the environment from harmful levels of ultraviolet radiation from the sun.
India became a Party to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer on 19 June 1992 and since then has ratified the amendments to the Montreal Protocol.
About the Kigali Amendment:
- Under the Kigali Amendment; Parties to the Montreal Protocol will phase down production and consumption of Hydrofluorocarbons, commonly known as HFCs.
- Recognizing the growth in use of HFCs, especially in Refrigeration and Air-conditioning sector the Parties to the Montreal Protocol, reached agreement at their 28th Meeting of the Parties (MOP) held in October 2016 in Kigali, Rwanda to add HFCs to the list of controlled substances and approved a timeline for their gradual reduction by 80-85 per cent by the late 2040s.
- The goal is to achieve over 80% reduction in HFC consumption by 2047.
- That amendment calls for the United States and other large industrialized countries to reduce HFCs by 85% by 2036.
- India will complete its phase down of HFCs in 4 steps from 2032 onwards with cumulative reduction of 10% in 2032, 20% in 2037, 30% in 2042 and 85% in 2047.
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