Should the Fifth Amendment to the Montreal Protocol be implemented with immediate effect, about 0.4 degree Celsius of global warming could be avoided by 2100.
It could also prevent 80 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) emissions by the mid of the century, according to the experts from UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the National Environment Commission Secretariat (NECS).
The Kigali Amendment entered into force in January this year. Today, 90 countries, including Bhutan have ratified the amendment committing to ensure continued protection of the Ozone layer and reduction of climate-warming gases.
The amendment adopted by the Meeting of Parties in Kigali, Rwanda in 2016 commits countries to reduce the production and consumption of Hydro fluorocarbons (HFCs) which are used as alternatives to Ozone depleting substances (ODs) by 80 percent by mid 2040s.
Bhutan ratified the Kigali Amendment on September 27 this year. The country has committed to reduce the consumption of HFCs beginning 2024.
Going by the reduction timeline, the country targets to bring down the HFCs consumption by 10 percent by 2029, 30 percent by 2035 and 80 percent by 2045.
Experts,representatives from the government, business community and the UNEP regional office for Asia and the Pacific met in Thimphu yesterday to discuss the implementation strategies, policy gaps, outcome of the market assessment, and to develop strategies for future action.
The Programme Officer for South Asian network projects with UNEP, Liazzat Rabbiosi said that while supporting the country to implement the amendment, the organisation is also looking at the existing policies and identifying gaps that need to be filled in.
“This is to make sure that the government policies are set in the right direction for the market to move smoothly towards the alternatives,” she added.
She said that the alternatives to replace the Ozone depleting and climate warming refrigerant gases are already there except that these are not widely available in the market at home. “Therefore, the regulations and policies must support the importation and introduction of the alternatives.”
Given that 80 percent of the HFCs are used in refrigeration and air conditional (RAC) servicing sector, it would require redesigning of cooling and heating technologies to make it Ozone and climate friendly and energy efficient, according to UNEP officials.
“HFCs are not a threat to the Ozone layer but have a high global warming potential,” said Ozone Programme Officer with NECS, Rinchen Tshering.
The HFCs are commonly used as refrigerants in heating and cooling appliances, solvents, foam-blowing agents and aerosol propellants.
To ensure Bhutan has qualified and skilled technicians to overcome operational challenges of the alternatives, Liazzat Rabbiosi said that they are also exploring if it could be included in technical and vocational education training.
“Some of the alternatives to ODs are Ammonia, Propane and Hydrocarbons,” she said.
From 2015 to 2018, about 11, 216 metric tonnes of CO2e were emitted from HFCs consumed in cooling and heating technologies, used for residential, commercial and industrial sectors. About 58 percent of the consumption was recorded in the refrigeration sector, while 42 percent in air conditioning equipment.
Following the ratification of the Montreal Protocol on substances that deplete the Ozone layer and its amendments in 2004, the country has stopped consumption of Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in 2010. CFCs were used in refrigerants, propellants for aerosols and foamed plastics, among others.
Currently, the country is the final stage of phasing out Hydrochloroflurocarbons (HCFCs) with 67.5 percent reduced so far. It expects to remove 97.5 percent by 2025 while 2.5 percent will be kept for servicing use.
The progress towards HFC reduction targets would be measured in tonnes of CO2 equivalent.
The latest quadrennial assessment report from the Scientific Assessment Panel of the Montreal Protocol from last year showed that at projected rates, Northern Hemisphere and mid-latitude ozone will heal completely by the 2030s .
“The Southern Hemisphere in the 2050s and the Antarctic ozone hole will gradually close in 2060s,” said Opposition Leader Pema Gyamtsho (PhD), who is also the Chairman of the National Assembly’s Environment and Climate Change Committee.
“We can remind ourselves that it was the universal ratification of the Montreal Protocol and global unity that ensured its success in putting the Ozone layer on the recovery path,” he said, adding that the same global unity and cooperation are needed to ensure Kigali Amendment to realise its full potential for climate benefits.
Meanwhile, the NECS in collaboration with the UNEP would train customs and enforcement officers on control of refrigerant substances.