30 May - 5 June 2014 #709

Montreal to Kyoto

The Montreal Protocol was a success. The Kyoto Protocol so far has been a failure.

Until recently, climate change caused by buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and the hole in the ozone layer caused by chemicals used for refrigeration were two different problems.

Stratospheric ozone protects living things from harmful solar radiation, and in 1985 the international community came together under the Montreal Protocol to phase out CFCs that depleted the ozone shield. The Montreal Protocol is one of the most sucessful international treaties because it replaced CFCs with the ozone-friendly HCFCs. The ozone hole over Antarctica is now shrinking.

The Kyoto Protocol, on the other hand, tried in 1997 to get countries to reduce carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels that causes global warming. This treaty has been a dismal failure. The effect of global warming on the earth’s climate is far worse than previously thought.

Although the Montreal Protocol was a success and the Kyoto Protocol so far has been a failure, the problems of atmospheric ozone depltion and the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have now combined to become one.

The HCFCs that replaced CFCs in fridges and air-cons may be ozone friendly, but they are 2,000 times more potent greenhouse gases than carbon dioxide. Which means that increasingly affluent people in China and India are buying more and more and more cooling appliances, burning more energy and leaking more HCFCs into the atmosphere. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) estimates that if HCFCs are not phased out, by 2030 its contribution to global warming will be a quarter of the greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide.

Nepal is a signatory to the Montreal Protocol and, as a developing country, was allowed to use some CFC until the complete ban went into force in 2010. Nepal is now also required to phase out HCFCs, too, by 2030.  “We are working to ban the import of HCFC based appliances and reduce the quota of HCFC import in the first phase,” says Shailendra Kumar Jha, National Ozone Officer at the National Bureau of Standards and Metrology that works with UNEP on HCFC phaseout.

In 2004 the government set the HCFC import quota at 23.3 metric tons, and now wants to bring it down by 10 per cent in the next three years. However, there is a danger that HCFC will still be smuggled into Nepal across the border from India to meet demand.

In 2012 Nepal worked with UNEP to destroy a stockpile of 74 tons of smuggled CFC seized by customs at the Indo-Nepal border in 2000. The California-based EOS Climate shipped out the chemicals and destroyed it, sharing carbon credits earned with the Nepal government to help fund additional training and awareness about responsible refrigerant management and appliance recycling.

Bhrikuti Rai

Read also:

The right climate for change, EDITORIAL

Green is also the colour of money

Cooling without heating, Dambar K Shrestha

Nepal becomes ozone friendly, Naresh Newar