HFCs Current Affairs
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The International Day for Preservation of Ozone Layer (or World Ozone Day) is observed every year on September 16 for the preservation of the Ozone Layer. This year, the theme for the Day is ‘Keep Cool and Carry On: The Montreal Protocol’. The day was designated by United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on December 19, 1994. Its observance commemorates the date in 1987 on which Montreal Protocol was signed on substances that deplete the ozone layer. It also is intended to spread awareness of the depletion of the Ozone Layer and search for solutions to preserve it.
The Ozone layer is fragile shield of gas which protects Earth from harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation of Sun and thus helping preserve life on the planet. It contains high concentrations of ozone (O3) in relation to other parts of the atmosphere. Stratospheric Ozone is not harmful, but its presence on land it is harmful. Substances like Chlorofluorocarbons, halons, Carbontetrachloride are responsible for ozone layer depletion.
It is an international treaty designed to protect ozone layer by phasing out production of numerous Ozone Depleting Substances (ODSs) that are responsible for ozone depletion. It was agreed on 26 August 1987 in Montreal, Canada and entered into force on 26 August 1989. It was followed by a first meeting in Helsinki, May 1989. Under it production and consumption of key ODSs like chlorofluorocarbon (CFCs), Methyl Chloroform, CTC halons and Methyl Bromide have been phased-out globally. It is legally binding on member countries. has been ratified by 197 parties making it universally ratified protocol in UN history. It is also highly successful international arrangement, as it has phased-out more than 95% of the ODS so far as per its main mandate in less than 30 years of its existence. It has helped in recovering the ozone hole in Antarctica.
Vienna Convention for Protection of the Ozone Layer
It is multilateral environmental agreement agreed upon at the 1985 Vienna Conference and entered into force in 1988. It is one of the most successful treaties of all time in terms of universality. It has been ratified by 197 states (all UN members as well as the Niue, Holy See and the Cook Islands) as well as European Union. It acted as framework for international efforts to protect fragile ozone layer. These are laid out in accompanying Montreal Protocol. However, it does not include legally binding reduction goals for the use of CFCs, the main chemical agents causing ozone depletion.
A historic global climate deal was reached in Kigali, Rwanda at the Twenty-Eighth Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (MOP28).
The so called Kigali Amendment which amends the 1987 Montreal Protocol aims to phase out Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), a family of potent greenhouse gases by the late 2040s.
Under Kigali Amendment, in all 197 countries, including India have agreed to a timeline to reduce the use of HFCs by roughly 85% of their baselines by 2045.
What are Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs)?
- HFCs are a family of greenhouse gases (GHGs) that are largely used in refrigerants in home, car air-conditioners and air sprays etc.
- These factory-made gases had replaced CFCs under the 1987 Montreal Protocol to protect Earth’s fragile protective Ozone layer and heal the ozone hole over the Antartica.
Why they are harmful?
- In recent times, it was found that HFCs have several thousand times capacity in retaining heat in the atmosphere compared to carbon dioxide (CO2), a potent GHG.
- Thus, it can be said that HFCs have helped ozone layer but exacerbated global warming.
- Currently, HFCs are currently the world’s fastest GHGs, with emissions increasing by up to 10% each year.
What is significance of the Kigali Amendment?
- The Kigali Amendment amends the 1987 Montreal Protocol that was designed to close growing ozone hole in by banning ozone-depleting coolants like chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).
- Thus, amended Montreal Protocol which was initially conceived only to plug gases that were destroying the ozone layer now includes HFCs responsible for global warming.
- This move will help to prevent a potential 0.5 degree Celsius rise in global temperature by the end of the century.
- The Kigali Agreement or amended Montreal Protocol for HFCs reduction will be binding on countries from 2019.
- It also has provisions for penalties for non-compliance. Under it, developed countries will also provide enhanced funding support estimated at billions of dollars globally.
- The exact amount of additional funding from developed countries will be agreed at the next Meeting of the Parties in Montreal in 2017.
Different timelines under Kigali Amendment
- All signatory countries have been divided into three groups with different timelines to go about reductions of HFCs.
- First group: It includes richest countries like US and those in European Union (EU). They will freeze production and consumption of HFCs by 2018. They will reduce them to about 15% of 2012 levels by 2036.
- Second group: It includes countries like China, Brazil and all of Africa etc. They will freeze HFC use by 2024 and cut it to 20% of 2021 levels by 2045.
- Third group: It includes countries India, Pakistan, Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia etc. They will be freezing HFC use by 2028 and reducing it to about 15% of 2025 levels by 2047.
How it is different from Paris agreement?
- The Paris agreement which will come into force by 2020 is not legally binding on countries to cut their emissions.
- The Kigali Amendment is considered absolutely vital for reaching the Paris Agreement target of keeping global temperature rise to below 2-degree Celsius compared to pre-industrial times.