Why do we need to care about atmospheric ozone? Because the ozone layer is the Earth’s SPF. It protects us from harmful ultraviolet radiation that puts destructive pressures on the agricultural and natural ecosystems and poses a high risk for public health. The emissions of ozone-depleting substances (ODS) happen to be almost exclusively a result of industrial activity.
In 1987, the United Nations (UN) and its Member States initiated the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. It is considered the most successful environmental treaty to date. The ozone hole has begun to close.
“Let us take encouragement from how we have worked together to preserve the ozone layer and apply the same will to healing the planet and forging a brighter and more equitable future for all humanity,” highlighted UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
Recently, due to growing concerns about climate change, a new question has been posed: are hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) – the current replacements of the ozone-depleting hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) – a smart and safe choice?
This is why the Kigali Amendment has come into play. The signatories to the Montreal Protocol agreed that they would not only continue to phase out the ODS, but also ensure that these are not replaced with chemicals with high global warming potential (GWP), such as HFCs. This Amendment to the Montreal Protocol has become a significant instrument against global warming: it is expected to help avoid up to 0.4°C of temperature rise by the end of the century, while continuing to protect the ozone layer.
After years of deliberations, in June 2021, the first-ever cost guidelines for preparing HFC phase-down plans were approved by the Executive Committee for the Implementation of the Montreal Protocol. This approval means that Article-5 countries, which have ratified the Kigali Amendment, can now request preparatory funding to develop strategies to phase-down their HFC consumption.
At the same landmark Executive Committee meeting, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) received US$ 1.62 million to start preparing HFC phase-down plans in 12 countries, namely Albania, Bolivia, Ecuador, Jordan, Mexico, Montenegro, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, North Macedonia, Senegal and South Africa. The development of these plans is now a top priority for the Organization.
Overall, since 1993, UNIDO has received over US$900m to implement projects in 111 countries, including supporting more than 350 enterprises. The portfolio of projects has included enabling activities to assist countries with the ratification of the Kigali Amendment, as well as the implementation of HFC phase-down investment initiatives. Through technology demonstration projects, the Organization helps individual industries apply best available techniques and practices.
One such HFC investment project has been successfully carried out with Petra Engineering Industries in Jordan. Implemented by UNIDO and funded by the Multilateral Fund for the Implementation of the Montreal Protocol (MLF), it focused on improving the energy efficiency and reducing the use of synthetic refrigerants in large commercial rooftop air-conditioning units by replacing them with low GWP refrigerants.
Numerous training sessions were held to educate technicians on how to work safely with air-conditioning equipment that contains flammable refrigerants. Several prototype units were tested to compare energy performance, cooling capacity, refrigerant charge amounts, and costs.
In addition to the demonstrated climate benefits of conversion, the project showed that using a natural refrigerant – R290 (propane) – leads to the same or better energy efficiency even at higher ambient temperatures.
R290 looks to be a long-term, sustainable solution to the challenge of environmentally friendly refrigeration and air-conditioning systems for the modern world.
“The R290 component now costs about 10% higher compared to using R407C (an HFC blend). However, with mass production in the future, we expect to eliminate that premium,” said Samir Hamed, General Manager at Petra Engineering Industries.
In addition, Petra and UNIDO are producing awareness-raising publications covering the latest global refrigeration trends, which are distributed among consultants working in this field.
This year’s World Ozone Day, commemorating the date of the signing of the Montreal Protocol, seeks to remind us that the Protocol is much more than a sunscreen – it’s a much-needed and powerful tool to help us cool our planet.