Society’s approach to climate change has drastically changed in the recent past. Many countries have strongly affirmed their position concerning climate change from the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC) to the Paris Agreement of 2016. They have illustrated their willingness to make an effort toward reducing whatever climate change contributions.
The Montreal Protocol is one of the many conventions and legal instruments the international community has embraced in its efforts toward resolving climate change. The main reason for the existence of the Montreal Protocol is to provide a framework for reducing substances that reduce the depletion of the Ozone Layer. Alongside its efforts toward reducing these substances, the recent changes in the Montreal Protocol have emphasized the centrality of energy efficiency.
History of The Montreal Protocol
The Montreal Protocol, formally known as the Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer, is a treaty under the auspices of the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer (the Vienna Convention). As the name suggests, the Vienna Convention aims to protect the ozone layer from depletion. However, this begs the question, why does the Ozone Layer deserve protection?
Research on climate sciences and anthropogenic practices that impact the climate indicate that the Ozone Layer is crucial in protecting the earth from the harmful UV radiation from the sun and reducing global warming. Therefore, the earth owes a great deal to the Ozone Layer.
The Vienna Convention resulted from consultative research between policymakers and scientists. In the 1970s, scientists such as Frank Sherwood Rowland and Mario Molina began their research on the impact of chlorofluorocarbons (CFC) on the ozone layer. Their research established that the presence of CFCs in the atmosphere might decompose into the constituent chlorine atoms, which may destroy the ozone layer if present in the stratosphere for a protracted period. After research conducted by the federal US government on the problem in the country, the government instituted a ban on all CFC-based aerosols in countries such as the US, Canada, Norway, and Sweden. Other countries across the globe have replicated these bans in their jurisdictions.
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Subsequent research building on Frank Sherwood Rowland and Mario Molina’s work established a hole in the ozone layer above Antarctica. This resulted in deliberations on the Vienna Convention. The use of the CFCs in refrigeration equipment around the globe contributed to the Montreal Protocol, which governs the use of ozone-depleting refrigerants.
The Montreal Protocol and Refrigerants
Before discussing the National Cooling Action Plan and its position concerning energy-efficient refrigeration practices, it is essential to deliberate on the historical use of different refrigerants per the Montreal Protocol. Ideally, there are four distinct generations of refrigerants. The first involved using sulfur dioxide, propane, carbon dioxide, and ammonia for cooling. However, innovations phased these substances away since they were toxic and flammable. The second generation involves CFCs as cooling agents. However, the subsequent generations were governed under the Montreal Protocol.
and the recent amendment to the Montreal Protocol under the Kigali Amendment of 2016. The amendment sought to coincide the climate change obligations of the party states with their obligations to conserve the ozone layer. Thus, researchers are looking into refrigerants that do not contribute to global warming or have low global warming and ozone-depleting potential. Therefore, the National Cooling Plan and the Ozone layer seek to have energy-efficient refrigerants which are also not harmful to the ozone layer.
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Energy Efficient Refrigerants
The Kigali Amendment recognizes that Greenhouse gas (GHG) emission significantly contributes to climate change. Additionally, it acknowledges that refrigeration practices directly impact the composition of GHGs in the atmosphere. As such, the aim is to have refrigeration that does not adversely affect the composition of GHGs in the atmosphere. The primary way to do so is to address the two main ways refrigeration contributes to global warming.
Refrigeration contributes to global warming either through the leakage of the refrigerants into the atmosphere or by using a lot of carbon-based electricity in running inefficient refrigerants. Thus, the Montreal Protocol aims to resolve this by ensuring efficient energy use by having refrigerants that do not require excessive energy to run. In doing so, the parties to the Montreal Protocol will discharge their obligations concerning climate change under various instruments such as the UNFCCC, the Paris Agreement, and the Kyoto Protocol.
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The Montreal Protocol, as amended through the Kigali Amendment, aims to ensure that every country pulls its weight towards reducing substances that deplete the ozone layer while reducing the instances of GHG emissions in the atmosphere. The Montreal Protocol can ensure that this is done by getting suitable refrigerants at the same time as ensuring energy efficiency. Ultimately, this will pass as every country discharges its common but differentiated responsibilities.