The National Environment Commission (NEC) is confident of phasing out hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), an ozone-depleting substance by 2025, five years ahead from other countries.

Commissionofficials said this during the three-day Montreal Protocol Enforcement training organised by NEC in coordination with the department of revenue and customs in Phuentsholing.

The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer came into effect in 1987 to protect human health and the environment through the control of consumption of Ozone Depleting Substances.

The training commenced on October 25 and concludes today.

Officials from the custom, Phuentsholing thromde, the ministry of economic affairs, and police attended the training.

The commission’s head of policy and program services, Karma Tshering, said Bhutan is trying all the efforts to phase out the HCFCs early.

“It is possible,” he said, adding that the commission is aiming for 2025 to keep enough cushion period.

It would also be quite easy for Bhutan, unlike other countries, Karma Tshering said, as the country does not make the depleting substances.

He said Bhutan imports the substances and explained that it was about replacing the substances with other alternatives that are not harmful to the ozone layer. “It would be replaced with a substance that is allowed and ozone-friendly.”

Meanwhile, the Montreal training is one of the regular activities NEC conducts every year for the stakeholders that are mostly the enforcement agencies.

Air cooler, air-conditioner, and refrigerators are some of the electronic machinery that use ozone-depleting gases (substances).  Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), a highly effective substance that has high ozone depleting potential, was substituted with HCFC, a substance that has a slightly lower impact, in 2010.

NEC had targeted to phase it out in 2005 and successfully carried out its mission.

In 2012, NEC then scheduled to phase out HCFC completely by 2025.

Bhutan consumed 5.6 metric tonnes (MT) of HCFC in 2012. In 2017, the country was able to reduce to 3.6MT.

An NEC official at the training, Rinchen Tshering, said the commission has two ways to work this out. “It has decreased as targeted.”

He said one is the supply reduction method and the other is the demand reduction method. “We are on track.”

People still import HCFCs for their old machinery. However, CFC is prohibited.

Meanwhile, in 2025, HCFC would be phased out and by hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) would be allowed as an alternative. It doesn’t deplete the ozone layer but contributes to global warming.

Post-2025, NEC would then work towards “phase down,” which is to gradually minimise the use of HFCs.

Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing