18 June, 2009
“The Ozone Layer and Climate Change”
Paul Newman, Programme Coordinator and atmospheric physicist at the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration [NASA] Goddard Space Flight Center, began by exhibiting a number of graphs from the 2006 Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion. One graph, he explained, showed that the production of Chlorofluorocarbons [CFC], a man-made chlorine compound that depletes ozone in the stratosphere and allowed larger quantities of harmful ultraviolet rays to reach the earth, had all but ceased. He added that the production of Hydrochlorofluorocarbons [HCFC] - another man-made chemical that were used in place of CFCs and posed a much smaller risk to the ozone layer - was now regulated and would be decreasing at a faster rate. Another graph demonstrated that due to the Montreal Protocol the levels of ozone-depleting chlorine and bromine in the stratosphere had peaked around 1996 and were now declining.
Yet another graph showed that due to the Protocol, models currently predicted that ozone levels would return to about their 1980 levels by the year 2050. Mr. Newman noted that the area covered by the Antarctic ozone hole was becoming as large as the North American Continent each year. However, because of the Montreal Protocol’s regulation of CFCs, the Antarctic ozone hole was expected to decrease and should recover by about 2065.
If ozone had not been regulated by the Montreal Protocol, Mr. Newman predicted that by 2065 chlorine and bromine levels would be 40 times higher than they are found in the naturally in the atmosphere, and two-thirds of the ozone layer would be destroyed, causing a dramatic increase in UV irradiation. Mr. Newman indicated that The Montreal Protocol had also helped promote the issue of climate change by averting a major increase in the warming of the earth’s surface and preventing the carbon-dioxide [CO2], caused by CFCs and other gases with large global warming potentials [GWP], to enter the atmosphere. Mr. Newman concluded by stating that the international scientific community had made great strides in identifying the link between CFCs, ozone depletion and climate change. He paid tribute to The Montreal Protocol and its amendments for stopping ozone-depletion, noting there was now evidence that the ozone layer was recovering.
Jose Pons Pons, President of Spray Química C.A. in Venezuela began by stating that although the world had been working to restore the ozone layer for twenty years, its full recovery was not expected for at least another fifty years. Mr. Pons noted that in 1978, when ozone-depletion was still being debated, the US government and other countries banned the use of CFCs in most aerosols. However, no major measures to control emissions of CFCs were taken and their reduction was cancelled by increased applications in refrigeration and foams. It was not until the irrefutable evidence in Antarctica that the international community began to take action against CFCs. According to Mr. Pons, those behind the drafting of the Montreal Protocol managed not only to warn world leaders of a global disaster, but also to initiate a process that set a precedent for international cooperation when facing a global environmental problem. Information for the Protocol was provided by three independent Assessment Panels.
Two of these panels were scientific - one studied the atmospheric changes in the ozone layer, and the other observed the affects on living organisms- while a third panel identified technologies and strategies to phase-out ozone-depleting substances. Mr. Pons stressed that the success of the Montreal Protocol was due to the ability of different communities, scientists, industry experts and governments both rich and poor, to work together. He noted that it was expected that by 2010 only a handful of ‘essential use allocations for CFCs’ for medical treatments will be needed worldwide. Mr. Pons in conclusion suggested that although recalling the tons of CFCs produced in the 1990s would be a mark of success, in the fight for protection of the ozone layer, he urged not dwelling on past achievements but committing to the challenges of the future.
Lisa Manley, Director of Sustainability Communications for The Coca-Cola Company began by stating that as the world’s largest beverage company and a global brand, Coca-Cola was very much a local business, relying on local resources, employees and ingredients. Therefore, a healthy planet and sustainable communities were critical to the health of their business. Measuring its overall climate footprint, Ms. Manley said, the Company found that their refrigeration equipment was by-far the largest element of that footprint. With over ten million refrigeration units worldwide, the equipment’s energy use, insulation foam and refrigerant gas had a direct impact on climate change. To manage their footprint, the Company had transitioned from a CFC-free refrigerant gas to a Hydrofluorocarbon [HFC] gas, known in the scientific world as R134a, in 1994 in both developing and developed countries. Though R134a poses no danger to the ozone layer, once in the atmosphere it acts as a powerful greenhouse gas with a fairly high global warming potential.
Ms. Manley described it as a ‘super-greenhouse gas, and explained that Coca-Cola is now working to transition to CO2 as a refrigerant gas, which is 1400 times less potent than R134a. Ms. Manley noted that in addition, the Company had switched to using all HFC-free insulation, eliminating seventy-five percent of direct greenhouse gas emissions from its equipment. To increase energy efficiency, a number of technologies have been developed, including a ‘smart technology’ that ‘learns’ patterns of usage and increases the temperature of the unit during times of low use. Ms Manley informed the audience that to ‘extend their handprint’, the Company had not only shared some of its proprietary energy management technology, but had worked collaboratively with the support of UNEP and Greenpeace to bring together a coalition of companies to form ‘Refrigerants Naturally!’ This coalition worked together to advance the use of natural refrigerants. She gave some examples of how the company has worked to shape public policy include signing on in 2007 to the UN Global Compact’s Caring for Climate Leadership platform and the Bali Communiqué. Ms. Manley announced that recently the Company also had gone with its rival Pepsi to Capitol Hill to discuss the issue of HFC-free refrigeration and was an active participant in the World Business Summit on Climate Change.
Professor Durwood Zaelke, Director of the International Network for Environmental Compliance and Enforcement [INECE] asserted that the Montreal Protocol was the best environmental treaty the world had ever created because of what it had done for both the ozone hole and climate change. The Protocol, he noted, had solved a problem equal to the CO2 contribution. He stressed that now it was necessary to use the potential of the Protocol to do more to address the matter of climate change and to do so quickly. Citing the finding of a 2008 publication, he stated that green house gas emissions had “most likely committed the world to a warming of 2.4°C,” consisting of: 0.76°C observed warming above pre-industrial levels, a 0.5°C unobserved lag in temperature increase from the oceans, and 1.1°C currently masked by cooling aerosols. He predicted that the warming trend would go beyond ‘temperature tipping-points’ leading to the loss of the Arctic summer sea ice, the Himalayan Tibetan glaciers and the Greenland ice sheet.
Professor Zaelke put forward the view that only half the problem of climate change was caused by CO2. He suggested that the other causes had to be addressed and quickly – namely the twenty percent of warming caused by HFCs. As a significant greenhouse gas, HFCs were traded under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, but not regulated as much as they should have been under the Montreal Protocol. Thus proposals were being made to move HFCs under the Montreal Protocal and begin the process of regulation and phasing-down, which would be more effective annually than the Kyoto Protocal in reducing CO2 in the atmosphere.
Professor Zaelke explained that a formal proposal to phase out HFCs had been submitted by the small island states of Micronesia and Mauritius, which were both looking to strengthen the Montreal Protocal, especially as they already were seeing the effects of climate change and wanted to see mitigation efforts increased that would address the threat of rising sea levels. The European however were suggesting that the international community wait another year until after the Copenhagen meeting on climate change to make this decision. Professor Zaelke in concluding asserted that one of the advantages of the Montreal Protocol was that every country of the world was a party to it; and further that the countries of the world worked well together under the treaty and had accepted their mandatory obligations. He further noted that the Protocol had previsions for frequent assessments, funding and adjustment processes. He therefore expressed the view that this successful treaty had the potential to solve a major piece of the climate change problem.
Rajendra Shende, Head of OzonAction in the Division of Technology, Industry and Economics of UNEP, began his presentation with the news regarding the historical milestone that was fast approaching i.e. 1 January 2010. From that date CFCs and Halons that deplete the stratospheric ozone layer would no longer be produced in the world. Global cooperation for last 20 years had resulted in the unique achievement of eliminating annual production of more than one million tons of these substances However, this good news was being overshadowed by the chain of crises that world was currently facing including food, finance, fuel, flu and F-gases [such as greenhouse gases- HCFCs and HFCs, whose consumption is rapidly rising].’ Yet, according to Mr. Shende, “with every crisis comes an opportunity.”
The global community has such an opportunity in Copenhagen in December 2009 during the climate negotiations to agree to rapidly eliminate emissions of HFCs in stages in order to get near term climate advantage.’ He asserted that every country except Timor Leste had ratified and implemented the Montreal Protocol, a proven record of near universal acceptance and a successful international treaty that worked in both developed and developing countries.
In fact, there had been a real ‘bail out’ of the Climate treaty by the Montreal Protocol, which by eliminating production of CFCs had reduced the global greenhouse gas emissions by five to six times the 2012 target of the Kyoto Protocol. This was because CFCs are also potent greenhouse gases. The next goal of the Montreal Protocol was to phase out HCFCs, which are not only ozone-depleting but also powerful greenhouse gases.
Mr. Shende posited the viewpoint that phasing out HCFCs would allow the world to gain much more of a climate advantage apart from safe guarding the ozone layer. The phase out of HCFCs and enhancing energy efficiency of the Air Conditioning Systems using alternatives to HCFCs would provide very significant mitigation of green house gases. He stressed that a 2.5 degree centigrade increase in the earth’s temperature would have disastrous consequences for humans and the biosphere. Hence a strong and meaningful deal was needed to be struck at Copenhagen to confront this urgent issue. Energy efficiency, he noted, was considered the ‘fifth fuel’, and it was essential to enhancing the viability of alternatives to HCFCs, with low Global Warming Potential Mr. Shende emphasized that the wide spread use of the ‘fifth fuel’ would need a change in mind set and behaviour patterns of people and therefore required NGOs to help promote the need to make appliances more efficient.
He suggested that partnerships and people power were needed to promote efficient use, citing successful examples of these types of partnerships including the efforts of Refrigerants Naturally and SolarChill. Mr. Shende maintained that the main challenge to the issue of climate change was to implement the Montreal Protocol to replace the HCFCs, with non-HFC alternatives and to achieve maximum energy efficiency.
Prepared Q&A Session between the Moderator and the panelists:
Q: Is there still a need to worry about the ozone layer, or should all the focus be on greenhouse gases and reducing them?
A: Mr. Newman responded that under the Montreal Protocol, additional chlorine compounds would not affect the atmosphere, but the potential remained for new discoveries that could reveal new problems with the ozone layer. He added that there needed to be greater awareness of the cooling effect of greenhouse gases, and more research needed to be conducted to see if this added to ozone depletion. Professor Zaelke stated that although a long time was needed for the ozone layer to fully recover, the Montreal Protocol had done a good job to put this recovery on track. It was now time to give the Protocol a chance to address the climate problem.
Q: How difficult is it, in business terms, to persuade the industrial world to adopt gases that are neither harmful to the ozone layer or to the climate?
A: Ms. Manley responded that when market dynamics could be pushed in such a way that improving old technologies was more cost efficient, decisions to transition to more environmentally friendly technologies were made much more quickly..
Q: From a scientific perspective, are natural refrigerants the answer to the climate change problem?
A: Mr. Newman responded that natural refrigerants were a good alternative because they had a much lower GWP [Global Warming Potential] than HFCs, CFCs and HCFCs. Professor Zaelke added that while alternative refrigerants were necessary to lessen emissions, energy efficiency was much more important to contributing to the fight against global warming.
Q: What is the single biggest obstacle to reaching a deal at Copenhagen?
A: Mr. Shende stated that there was a lack of political will to assign the resources and to reach a deal. Mr. Pons responded that the problem was that climate change was more complex than the issues dealt with by the Montreal Protocol. He suggested that the task to be accomplished at Copenhagen was too large to solve in a single battle. Ms. Manley added that the biggest obstacle was confronting bothhuman interest and thepolitical focus on the here and now. Thus the opportunity was found in expanding interests and looking at solutions from a global perspective. Mr. Zaelke stated that a lack of trust and optimism were major obstacles. He stressed that additionally, there was a problem of a lack of connection between those negotiating the problem, and those trying to find real solutions. He said the problem was having “top- down” negotiators who were not in touch with the “bottom-up” views. Mr. Newman asserted that as a scientist he believed, the challenge was narrowing uncertainties on important statistics to make better models and predictions.
Q: Were the harmful affects of new gases to climate change an unforeseen consequence?
A: Mr. Shende asserted that the harmful effects of the new alternatives to HCFCs were not an unforeseen consequence, but rather these alternatives were used because there was no other economically feasible, commercially viable and safe option. Mr. Pons replied that while these alternatives were not perfect, it was better to take intermediate steps towards solving the problem rather than waiting for the perfect solution. Ms. Manley added that in order to mitigate these harmful effects there needed to be more work done to advance new technologies that were safe, effective and energy efficient.
During the question and answer session with the audience, Mr. Shende explained that although Timor-Leste, was the only country not to ratify the Montreal Protocol yet,it would be provided with financial and technical assistance from the Multilateral Ozone Fund to assist with the implementation of the Protocol. This Fund had already assisted more than 140 countries with nearly US$ 3 billion of grants.
In response to the question of new unintended consequences if HFCs were covered under the Montreal Protocol, Professor Zaelke stated that the Protocol could provide a phase-down in their use, and stronger regulations of production and consumption, whereas the Kyoto Protocol only addressed control of emissions.
Mr. Shende responded to a question about energy consumption in the developing world by citing the examples of China and India, which had already phased out the use of CFCs, demonstrating the commitments of these countries to the protection of the ozone layer. In the process, he pointed out, they had also gained energy efficiency benefits for example in domestic refrigerators, that now used non CFC alternatives. He underscored the fact that because developing countries with emerging markets understood the need to be competitive they kept up with the most advanced, clean, ozone friendly and energy efficient technologies.
He added that the fact that renewable energy continued to be a guaranteed growth sector of the economy was evidence that promoting a green economy with ozone friendly, climate friendly and energy efficient alternatives was a potential solution to the global economic crisis. Professor Zaelke added that China had done an excellent job in reducing its HCFC use, and although it was not doing enough to address climate change, this was true of many of other countries.
Mr. Pons also asserted that the lifestyle of the developed world needed to change, so that the developing world had a new model of what was considered an ideal way of life. In response to a question as to whether new smart technologies were patented or shared, Ms. Manley responded that smart technology began as a proprietary business interest, due to the significant value to both the consumer and the respective company with which it was doing business. These technologies, she noted, were beginning to be shared. Mr. Pons added the issue of intellectual property had not been an obstacle to the process of protecting the environment.
In their final wrap up comments Mr. Shende noted that, contrary to earlier predictions, none of the air conditioning industries that used CFCs before and had now eliminated them as per the Montreal Protocol, had gone bankrupt. The reason for this, he suggested, was that the industries that seemed to create the problem, also had amazing potential to innovate and address global environmental issues. This led him to believe that innovation and creativity were the keys to the solutions needed for addressing climate change. Ms. Manley suggested that governance needed to be inclusive; that as newer and cleaner technologies evolved there was a need for particular incentives; and that early action was needed to deal with the issue of mitigation and climate change.
Mr. Newman warned that vigilance needed to be exercised over the NCFCs and the HFCs to see what these compounds were really doing to the atmosphere; and Professor Zaelke expressed the hope that Copenhagen would indeed be the place to seal the deal on climate change.
Prepared by Gail Bindley-Taylor Sainte with assistance from Jennifer Basch - United Nations, Department of Public Information, NGO Relations, S-1070 J-L - E-mail:email@example.com http://www.undpingoconference.org