Mandate supporting 2016 amendment to phase down hydrofluorocarbons

The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (Montreal Protocol) is an international treaty agreed to in 1987 under the framework of the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer (Vienna Convention). The Montreal Protocol came into force in 1989 and, with the Vienna Convention, is signed by 197 countries making it the first treaty in the history of the United Nations to achieve universal ratification.

The Montreal Protocol obligates Parties to phase out substances responsible for ozone depletion, such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), through a phase-out schedule with the ultimate goal of complete elimination. The Multilateral Fund for the Implementation of the Montreal Protocol was established in 1991 by the Parties to the Protocol to provide technical and financial assistance to developing countries to achieve their targets to phase out ODS.  Headquartered in Montreal, the Multilateral Fund is financed by mandatory contributions from developed countries that are Party to the Montreal Protocol, including Canada.

Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) were introduced onto the global market to replace some of the ozone-depleting substances being phased out under the Montreal Protocol. HFCs are commonly used in refrigeration, cooling, foam insulations, and fire suppression systems. Although not ozone-depleting, HFCs are powerful greenhouse gases (GHGs), some with global warming potentials thousands of times higher than carbon dioxide (CO2).

HFCs are considered the fastest-growing GHGs in most of the world, increasing at a rate of 10 to15% per year. While HFCs currently account for 1-2% of global GHG emissions, if left uncontrolled, they could account for as much as 10% of such emissions by 2050.

In November 2015, the Parties to the Montreal Protocol agreed to work towards an HFC amendment in 2016. Canada played a leadership role in negotiating this commitment made by all 197 countries.

The initiative was for the Government of Canada to move forward with a negotiating strategy that supports the adoption in 2016 of an amendment to phase down hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) under theMontreal Protocol.  Reducing the consumption and production of HFCs under the Montreal Protocol is part of Canada’s broader climate change agenda and complements Canada’s efforts under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). An HFC phase-down is one of the most significant single measures the world can take at this time to combat climate change and contribute toward meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement.

In March 2016, Canada and the United States (U.S.) issued the U.S.-Canada Joint Statement on Climate, Energy and Arctic Leadership and resolved to work together to implement their respective commitments under the Paris Agreement. Both countries committed to reduce use and emissions of HFCs using their respective domestic frameworks, while agreeing to propose new actions in 2016. In addition, both the United States and Canada affirmed their commitment to adopt, in 2016, a Montreal Protocol amendment to phase down HFCs and to provide increased financial support to the Multilateral Fund upon adoption of such an amendment.

An amendment to phase down HFCs under the Montreal Protocol, when in force, would serve to reduce the use of HFCs and avoid future emissions.  Controlling HFCs at this time provides a unique opportunity to mitigate the climate impacts of HFCs before the problem becomes unmanageable.

For Canada, based on estimated growth rates, HFC emissions are projected to be 15 million tonnes CO2-equivalent by 2020 and 23 million tonnes CO2-equivalent by 2030, as compared to the 8 million tonnes CO2-equivalent measured in 2012.

Over the period 1948 to 2010, the average annual temperature in Canada has warmed by 1.6 °C, a higher rate of warming than in most other regions of the world. Increased winter and spring temperatures have contributed to this warming trend to a greater degree than other seasons.

Warming trends are seen consistently across Canada, but the regions showing the strongest warming trends are found in the far north. Strong warming in high-latitude regions is a robust characteristic of projections of future climate change as well. This indicates that the climate of Canada, particularly in the North, to which Canadians have been accustomed and to which we have adapted our activities, is expected to undergo substantial change in the future.

Future warming will be accompanied by other changes, including the amount and distribution of rain, snow, and ice and the risk of extreme weather events such as heat waves, heavy rainfalls and related flooding, dry spells and/or droughts, and forest fires. In addition, Canada is a maritime nation with 8 of its 10 provinces and all three territories bordering on ocean waters (including Hudson Bay).

Thus many regions of Canada will also be affected by changing ocean environments, including changes in average and extreme sea level, wave regimes, and ice conditions. Dramatic reductions in Arctic sea ice cover, particularly during the summer season, are already evident and well documented, and have been attributed to human-induced global warming.

A Strategic Environmental Analysis concluded that this initiative will positively contribute to the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy’s (FSDS) 2013-2016 goals relating to climate change mitigation and, protecting nature and Canadians, specifically, the implementation strategy to “continue to promote a North American proposal to phase-down emissions of hydrofluorocarbons under the Montreal Protocol and develop complementary domestic regulations where appropriate.” Implementation of obligations under an HFC amendment in Canada will lead to regulatory measures that restrict their manufacture and import, which will lead to avoided HFC emissions thereby mitigating climate impacts, since HFCs are powerful GHGs.

Positive direct outcomes from climate impact mitigation could include: the amount and distribution of rain, snow, and ice; the risk of extreme weather events such as heat waves, heavy rainfalls; and related flooding, dry spells and/or droughts, and forest fires.

In addition to these direct climate benefits from HFC mitigation, additional climate benefits are expected through improvements in the energy efficiency of the refrigerators, air conditioners and other products that use HFC refrigerants. This is the result of the introduction of a new generation of higher efficiency systems. These efficiency gains are expected to significantly reduce CO2 emissions.

In December 2014, Canada announced its intention to develop domestic regulatory measures to control the manufacture, import, and use of HFCs through the publication of a Notice of Intent to Regulate HFCs.

Following multi-stakeholder consultations in 2015 and 2016, Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) is finalising proposed domestic measures to control HFCs. The proposed measures would include a phase-down of HFCs complemented by prohibitions on specific HFC-containing products that would take effect in future years and are based on the availability of alternatives. Domestic measures for HFCs are expected to be proposed in Part I of the Canada Gazette in late 2016 or early 2017.

A Performance Measurement and Evaluation Plan (PMEP) will be prepared for the domestic regulatory measures for HFCs. The PMEP will allow ECCC to conduct a periodic review to determine if the regulatory measures are achieving the intended outcomes and ensure that Canada’s international obligations under an amendment are met. Progress and results of the regulatory measures will be provided to Canadians.

For further information, please consult the following websites:

U.S.-Canada Joint Statement on Climate, Energy, and Arctic Leadership (March 10, 2016)

Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer

Montreal Protocol meetings portal (Available in English only)

Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Ozone website

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