US and China will cooperate jointly to slow global warming. This is the outcome of the recent meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and US leader Barak Obama in California, whereby the leaders agreed to set new emission limits for the super greenhouse gases HFCs under Montreal Protocol.
The Montreal Protocol is an international environmental treaty that aims to prevent the ozone-layer depletion, reducing production and consumption of CFCs and HCFCs, through technology transfer and financial assistance. The HFCs hydrofluorocarbons that are released by conditioners and coolants were not originally regulated as they do not represent a serious hazard for the ozone-layer but they have, on the other hand, an extremely high global warming potential (GWP). The increased concentration of these gases in the atmosphere, indeed is increasing global warming at an alarming rate.
This agreement represents a great step in the climate change negotiations outside the UN- framework and it might foster the launch of formal negotiation in the next meeting on Montreal Protocol, that will be held in Bangkok next week. It constitutes a great opportunity also for China to build a sustainable green economy.
China is the largest producer of HFCs-based conditioners and refrigerators in the world, manufacturing 110 million units in 2011, 70 million for the domestic market and 40 million for export; shifting to ozone-climate friendly alternatives not only would reduce significantly greenhouse gases in the atmosphere but it would make Chinese economy more competitive on foreign markets that already require low GWP air conditioners.
US recently released greenhouse gas standards that require car makers to opt for coolants that have less than one percent of the climate impact. EU ruled out the use of high GWP coolants for new cars, through Mobile Air Conditioner Directive and it is planning to adopt the F-gas Directive to reduce by two-thirds the concentration of HFC's.
Some steps have been already taken by Chinese air conditioner industries to develop refrigerant devices with lower-impact on climate. Room air-condition producers like Gree and Midea have already lunched the production of a new line of retrofitted refrigerants that replace HFC's with HC-290 (propane), that has a lower GWP. Other important industries in this field like Haier and Hisense will probably follow this trend soon. To help this transition Chinese Central Government released new national safety standard for heat pumps, air conditioners and dehumidifiers (GB4706.32-2012) to provide a guidance about safe use of propane-based coolants, given the high flammability of propane.
Some industries are also considering to opt for HFC-32 that is safer and combines an high level of efficiency with a low GWP. It is no wonder that Japanese and Danish manufacturers have already resorted to this type of coolants.
Montreal Protocol provides an ideal framework to secure Chinese government's efforts in reducing production and consumption of HFC's. It provides indeed financial assistance that is immediate, as it is not necessary to wait until state Parties reach a Global Climate Deal under UN Climate negotiations, and it is adequate as well as China does not suffer competition for resources, with the most undeveloped countries such as Africa and India.
Moreover the Montreal Protocol has a higher rate of expertise than UN Climate Change instruments that entail general measures to address climate change, and so it could provide detailed provisions to regulate these class of chemicals.
If US-China proposal to phase down HFCs under Montreal Protocol will be implemented in the following Montreal negotiations in Bangkok, China would gain also the leadership in the international scenario in addressing climate change that represents a severe threat for the future as it affects several dimensions of human life putting pressure of water resources, worsening agricultural productivity, increasing air pollution and generating extreme weather conditions.
In conclusion an agreement on HFCs under Montreal Protocol, pushed ahead by US and China jointly, might represent an important step to further a new climate change international policy about greenhouse gases that would benefit China and the global environment as well.
The gLAWcal Team
July 4, 2013
(Source: Switchboard - NRDC Staff Blog)