September 16, 2010, marks the 23rd anniversary of the Montreal Protocol, the international treaty that was created in 1987 to protect and restore the ozone layer. The treaty has achieved each of its goals over the last few decades, including the complete phase-out of CFCs this year.
Aggressively phasing out CFCs translated not only to major ozone protection, but also to significant climate protection: 222 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide-equivalent (CO2-eq.) in mitigation or the elimination of 7 to 12 years worth of emissions.
In 2007 Montreal Protocol parties agreed to accelerate HCFCs, the chemicals that replaced CFCs. This agreement will avoid up to 15 billion tonnes of CO2-eq. by 2040.
HFCs pose a risk as a major GHG, they are widely used as coolants used in refrigeration and air conditioning systems, but new ozone and climate-friendly alternatives exist.
According to the Executive Summary of the 2010 Ozone Assessment by the Montreal Protocol’s Scientific Assessment Panel, the growth of HFCs is growing at an alarming pace and if they are not controlled, their climate impact could equal that of CFCs at their peak.
Serious regulation is required to stem the use of HFCs, if left unchecked this could essentially wipe out progress achieved so far under the Kyoto Protocol. The Federated States of Micronesia, and other island Parties, have been joined by Mexico, the US, and Canada in calling for a ban on HFC.
HFCs could be phased down under the Montreal Protocol which could eliminate up to 100 billion tonnes of CO2-eq emissions by 2050.
With the support of 196 parties, a strong financial mechanism and 23 years of experience and expertise, the Montreal Protocol proves that global agreements on climate change can work. Most importantly the Montreal Protocol has proven its ability to achieve major mitigation in a fast and cost-effective manner,
The Montreal Protocol is a functioning example of a global climate treaty that is a model for the elimination of HFCs and other GHGs.
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