Proposed revisions to the Ozone-Depleting Substances Regulations: chapter 2

2. Background

Ozone's unique physical properties allow the ozone layer to act as our planet's sunscreen, providing an invisible filter to help protect all life forms from the sun's damaging ultraviolet (UV) rays. Most incoming UV radiation is absorbed by ozone and prevented from reaching the earth's surface. Without the protective effect of ozone, life on earth would not have evolved the way it has.

Stratospheric ozone depletion is a concern because the ozone layer in the stratosphere keeps 95-99% of the sun’s ultraviolet radiation from striking the earth. A number of consequences can result from increased levels of UV striking the earth, including: genetic damage, eye damage and damage to marine life. The human immune system can also be weakened by exposure to

2.1 Global Response and Action

The original Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, signed on September 16, 1987, by Canada along with 23 other countries and subsequently signed and ratified by more than 191 countries, initially established a schedule to reduce the consumption of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and halons. Under the Montreal Protocol, all Parties are obligated to phase-out the production and consumption of a wide range of chemicals that are known to contribute to ozone depletion, including hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs). The provisions of the original Montreal Protocol called for a process of continuing review by the Parties of the reduction schedule and of the list of controlled ozone-depleting substances (ODS).

In subsequent meetings of the Parties, the phase-out schedules were accelerated and the list of controlled ODS was amended to include other substances that contribute to the destruction of the stratospheric ozone layer. The current phase-out schedules cover the production and consumption (i.e., production + imports - exports) of CFCs, halons, carbon tetrachloride, methyl chloroform, hydrobromofluorocarbons (HBFCs), methyl bromide, HCFCs and bromochloromethane. Reductions in the releases to the environment of these chemicals are intended to prevent a global crisis resulting from gradual destruction of the ozone layer, thus contributing to the protection of the environment and human health.

HCFCs are permitted as temporary replacements for CFCs, which have been banned since 1996. HCFCs are ozone-depleting substances used in refrigeration, air conditioning and foam blowing. They have a lower ozone-depleting potential than CFCs but still contribute to depletion of the ozone layer.

There is broad acceptance that there has been a very substantial increase in the production and consumption of HCFCs over recent years, particularly in developing countries. In light of that concern and the widely recognized impact that ozone-depleting substances could have on the ozone layer and also on climate change, many Parties to the Montreal Protocol affirmed the clear need to accelerate the timetable for the phase-out of HCFCs.

At the 19th Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol, Parties agreed to accelerate the phase-out of HCFCs in both developed and developing countries.

2.2 Public Policy Issue

In June 2007, Canada participated in the G8 summit. In paragraph 59 of the summit declaration, participants committed that they would “endeavour under the Montreal Protocol to ensure the recovery of the ozone layer by accelerating the phase-out of HCFCs in a way that supports energy efficiency and climate change objectives.”

On September 22, 2007, Canada’s Minister of the Environment announced that Parties to the Montreal Protocol had agreed to accelerate the phase-out schedule for HCFCs. This agreement, reached at the 19th Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol, includes commitments by both developed countries and developing countries, to phase-out the production and consumption of HCFCs.

2.3 Environmental Benefits

2.3.1 Global Benefits

A significant benefit of the recent agreement is the new commitment by developing countries to accelerate the phase-out of HCFC consumption and production. Over the past 8 years, consumption of HCFCs in developing countries has more than doubled and is predicted to double again over the next 6-8 years, reaching an estimated 700,000 metric tonnes by 2015.

This growth, which offsets gains made by HCFC reductions achieved in developed countries, is driven largely by expansion of HCFC use in refrigeration and air conditioning in developing countries. Although alternatives are generally available, they tend to be more expensive.

When considering the anticipated growth of consumption of HCFCs in developing countries, global implementation of the accelerated phase-out schedule will have a significant positive impact on the ozone layer, as it has the potential to reduce the consumption of ODS by approximately 1 million ozone-depleting potential (ODP)-weighted tonnes. Since the health of the ozone layer is a global issue, with impacts most significantly in the vicinity of the North and South Poles, it is expected that reductions in developing countries would have a significant positive impact on the health and environment of Canadians.

Any release of HCFCs also contributes to global warming, since HCFCs also have global warming potential. Preliminary analysis indicates that the accelerated phase-out would contribute to global efforts to address climate change as it could potentially lead to reductions of close to 3 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent.

The eventual magnitude of reductions would be influenced by the introduction of alternatives that are energy efficient and have a low global warming potential as it was agreed in the accelerated phase-out decision.

2.3.2 Canadian Context

In Canada, the Ozone-depleting Substances Regulations, 1998 establish the complete phase-out of HCFCs by 2030. The earlier phase-out and accelerated step-wise reductions implemented by the Parties to the Montreal Protocol will lead to an overall decrease in consumption of HCFCs. Consequently, the positive impacts on the environment of this accelerated phase-out are expected also to increase.

The proposed revisions would result in the accelerated phase-out of HCFCs, such that there would be an incremental decrease of 10% from Canada’s consumption base level for HCFCs subject to the relevant reduction schedule, in each year between 2010 and 2014. This decrease is expected to result in an incremental reduction of approximately 100 ODP tonnes over a period of five years.

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