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Montreal Protocol obviates 135bn tonnes CO2

7763298_sFRANCE: Although set up primarily to eliminate ozone depleting substances, the Montreal Protocol is said to have eliminated 25 times more CO2 emissions than the Kyoto Protocol.

Although a breakthrough in attempts to bring the phase-down of HFCs within the Montreal Protocol seems unlikely to be achieved during this week’s meeting in Paris, a new report from the United Nations Development Programme describes the effects the Montreal Protocol has had in reducing CO2 emissions and at a fraction of the cost of the Kyoto Protocol.

The Montreal Protocol has been recognised as a global success, demonstrated by the massive elimination of production and consumption of CFCs, halons, carbon tetrachloride, methyl chloroform, methyl bromide, and bromochloromethane worldwide since it came into force in 1987.

While the Montreal Protocol was set up to eliminate ozone-depleting refrigerants, we forget the impact that ridding the world of CFCs alone had on global warming reductions. The common CFC refrigerants R502 and R11 had GWP’s of 4,652 and 4,750 respectively, both more than R404A. More significantly, the previously widely-used R12 had a huge GWP of 10,900.

It is estimated that between 1989 and 2103 the Montreal Protocol reduced cumulative CO2eq emissions by 135bn tonnes – nearly as big as all the 11 other global policy actions including energy efficiency, hydropower, nuclear power, forest preservation, fuel efficiency standards, etc.

UNDP-reportBy comparison, commitments under the Kyoto Protocol from 2008-2012 only eliminated 5 billion tonnes of CO2eq.

Given the huge quantities of HFCs already in use, it has been argued that if the Montreal Protocol was quickly amended to include them, it might be possible for the MP to eliminate the CO2 equivalent of as much greenhouse gas emissions in the next 35 years as the MP did during the decade 1990-2010.

The report, Protecting the Ozone Layer and Reducing Global Warming, describes how 120 countries eliminated more than 67,000 tonnes of ozone-depleting substances (ODS) and over 5 billion tonnes of CO2-equivalent greenhouse gas emissions, helping to improve air quality and technological practices in such sectors as refrigeration and air conditioning, solvents, and foams.

It features nine case studies, including of technology transfer across different continents, and summarises the results and lessons learned over a period of 20 years.

Examples covered in the report include transfer of low-carbon and ODS-free technologies in the foam sector,  refrigeration and air conditioning, and solvents, across different countries such as Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Georgia, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Swaziland and Trinidad & Tobago, as well as the Portuguese-speaking Africa and the Countries with Economies in Transition (Belarus, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan). In addition, of the 2,331 completed projects, over 1,000 were with private sector entities, including hundreds of small and medium-sized enterprises.

UNDP assisted these countries to access expertise and access $690.6m in funding from the Multilateral Fund for the Implementation of the Montreal Protocol (for developing countries) and $42.5m from the Global Environment Facility (for countries with economies in transition) to eliminate ozone depleting chemicals.

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