Our directory of things of interest

University Directory

Fresh news: updating the Montreal Protocol

  • Written by  Marco Magrini
  • Published in Climate
Hydrofluorocarbons, used as coolants in refrigerators and air conditioning, could soon begin a phase out Hydrofluorocarbons, used as coolants in refrigerators and air conditioning, could soon begin a phase out kosmos111
08 Oct
2016
Geographical’s regular look at the world of climate change. This month, Marco Magrini looks at the future of hydrofluorocarbons

When it comes to the environment, we don’t often get to deliver good news, which is why, even when it’s three decades old, we cling on to it. In 1987, the countries of the world signed a binding international treaty, one which would become the most widely ratified treaty in human history. A global accord of such a scale could only have been reached upon a truly global matter – a drastic reduction in the emission of harmful gases.

In the era of Thatcherism and Reaganomics, the United Nations reached a pinnacle in human teamwork by adopting the Montreal Protocol, gradually banning the production of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). Now, 29 years later, Kigali, Rwanda’s capital city, could become the stage for yet another grandiose accomplishment.

Since Montreal, CFCs have indeed been phased out and the Antarctic ozone layer is now proven to be healing. In refrigeration and air conditioning – CFCs’ main industrial applications – the chemicals were replaced with hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). Since HFCs contain no chlorine, they pose no harm to the ozone layer. Unfortunately, they have a global warming potential up to 9,100 times more powerful than carbon dioxide.

Clearly, replacing coolants is much easier than replacing fossil fuel, and this is why the Montreal Protocol was binding and much easier to be agreed upon

The 28th meeting of the Montreal Protocol’s 197 parties, set to commence today, is expected to amend the Protocol in order to curtail HFC production. Even though India is pressing for a slower phaseout, the mood is upbeat, and observers say another diplomatic feat is well within reach.

If HFC use is to be restrained and finally banned, the Kigali Amendment could spare us 0.5 degrees of warming by 2100 – a blessing for a planet struggling not to exceed the dangerous 2°C threshold. The irony is that the warmer the world becomes, the more we will need refrigeration and air conditioning. Luckily, science has discovered plenty of substitutes for HFCs, and new technologies will diffuse rapidly, as key patents may expire in a few years.

Clearly, replacing coolants is much easier than replacing fossil fuel, and this is why the Montreal Protocol (unlike the Kyoto Protocol or the Paris Agreement) was binding and much easier to be agreed upon. However, with 2016 setting record high temperature levels, good news of a far-sighted and ambitious deal in Kigali would be refreshing in every sense.

This was published in the October 2016 edition of Geographical magazine.

Related items

Subscribe to Geographical!

geo line break v3

Free eBooks - Geographical Newsletter

Sign up for our weekly newsletter today and get a FREE eBook collection!

geo line break v3

University of Winchester

geo line break v3

EDUCATION PARTNERS

Aberystwyth University University of Greenwich The University of Derby

TRAVEL PARTNERS

Ponant

Silversea

Travel the Unknown

DOSSIERS

Like longer reads? Try our in-depth dossiers that provide a comprehensive view of each topic

  • Natural Capital: Putting a price on nature
    Natural capital is a way to quantify the value of the world that nature provides for us – the air, soils, water, even recreational activity. Advocat...
    The human game – tackling football’s ‘slave trade’
    Few would argue with football’s position as the world’s number one sport. But as Mark Rowe discovers, this global popularity is masking a sinister...
    Essential oil?
    Palm oil is omnipresent in global consumption. But in many circles it is considered the scourge of the natural world, for the deforestation and habita...
    London: a walk in the park
    In the 2016 London Mayoral election, the city’s natural environment was high on the agenda. Geographical asks: does the capital have a green future,...
    When the wind blows
    With 1,200 wind turbines due to be built in the UK this year, Mark Rowe explores the continuing controversy surrounding wind power and discusses the e...

MORE DOSSIERS

NEVER MISS A STORY - Follow Geographical on Social

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in NATURE...

Wildlife

A new system of robotic aerial vehicles is revolutionising the…

Wildlife

Technology used in creating safe urban environments is now being…

Climate

Brazil’s shift to the right of the political spectrum could…

Wildlife

Laura Cole travels to Orkney to find out why numbers…

Wildlife

The unprecedented frequency of winter tick epidemics have resulted in…

Oceans

Ocean debris, mostly composed of plastic, reaches remote Atlantic islands…

Geophoto

With motion detectors becoming ever more sophisticated, and clearer, crisper…

Nature

Natural capital is a way to quantify the value of…

Tectonics

The reason for the unusual location of Mount St Helens…

Climate

Most plants thicken their leaves in response to higher carbon…

Climate

Not just the preserve of flatulent cows, methane is causing…

Climate

As the United States’ Supreme Court delays a landmark climate…

Geophoto

Of Britain's 15 national parks, the New Forest is probably…

Energy

The Treasury has announced that it is considering imposing a…

Tectonics

Major earthquakes are triggering seismic activity half the world away

Climate

Marco Magrini finds that a warming world also means a…

Wildlife

Unchecked tourism is potentially reducing the number of cheetah cubs that…

Oceans

A relocated military base in Okinawa, Japan will cause ‘irreversible’…

Climate

The ongoing recovery of the planet’s ozone layer is being…

Oceans

The Ocean Cleanup has launched System 001, a floating barrier…