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Montreal protocol strikes major deal with China

Will keep eight billion tonnes of greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere

| | Apr 25, 2013 | 5:38 pm
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Will keep eight billion tonnes of greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere

The Montreal Protocol has announced striking a deal with China to phase-out hydrofluorocarbon (HCFC) production and thus prevent eight billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions. With funding of up to US$385m from the Montreal Protocol’s Multilateral Fund, China will eliminate its production of HCFCs, ozone-depleting substances that are also potent greenhouse gases. The London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) disseminated the news through a press release.

Clare Perry, Senior Campaigner for EIA, said, “This is an important step which demonstrates yet again the significance of the Montreal Protocol in providing effective climate mitigation through a tried and tested process.”

The decision, reportedly reached at the most recent meeting of the Multilateral Fund, is a major step in the accelerated phase-out of HCFCs, and the elimination of the production of over 4.3 million metric tonnes of HCFCs will prevent emissions of eight billion tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2), equivalent to emissions from 1.6 billion cars, one-and-a-half times the global motor vehicle fleet, EIA elaborated.

According to EIA, HCFCs are chemicals used mainly in air conditioning, refrigeration, foam blowing and solvents. They are also used as feedstock for other products such as Teflon feedstock. The use of HCFCs is not regulated by the Montreal Protocol, as it is deemed that they are entirely consumed in the process and not emitted to the atmosphere. However, the production of HCFC also results in the unwanted production of HFC-23, a super greenhouse gas 14,800 times more damaging to the climate than CO2. While destruction of HFC-23 is easily done and inexpensive, some Chinese plants allow HFC-23 by-product to be vented, resulting in growing atmospheric concentrations, EIA revealed.

According to the press release issued by the Multilateral Fund, China has agreed to “…make best efforts to manage HCFC production and associated by-product production in HCFC plants in accordance with best practices to minimise associated climate impacts”, EIA said.

The agency believes that this stops short of mandating HFC-23 destruction in all plants, but does indicate China’s intent to follow best practice as currently followed by HCFC producers in developed countries where HFC-23 is routinely destroyed.

EIA said that it was calling on China to formally pledge to destroy the HFC-23 from all Chinese HCFC production facilities, including facilities which produce HCFC for feedstock.

“Elimination of China’s production of HCFCs over the next 17 years is a great win for the environment,” said Mark W Roberts, EIA’s Senior Policy Advisor. “However, it will be a hollow victory unless China adopts measures to prevent HFC-23 from being vented into the atmosphere.”

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