REFRIGERANTS & ENV. REGULATION (Syllabus: GS Paper 3 – Env and Eco)

News-CRUX-10     13th March 2024        
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Context: A California man is facing criminal charges in a San Diego court for smuggling, not illegal drugs or weapons, but greenhouse gases (GHGs).

  • A person purportedly bought canisters of banned refrigerants in Mexico.

Refrigerants: A working fluid used in the refrigeration cycle of air conditioning systems and heat pumps 

Banned Refrigerants

  • Introduction of HFCs and HCFCs: HFCs and a variant of HCFCs, known as HCFC 22, replaced CFCs in the 1990s as the primary refrigerants.
  • Environmental Impact of CFCs: CFCs, once widely used, were found to deplete ozone, leading to concerns about the ozone layer's integrity.
  • Ozone Depletion: Research in 1985 linked CFC emissions to the depletion of ozone, notably observed as an "ozone hole" above Antarctica.
  • Emission Sources: Refrigerant emissions primarily occur through damaged appliances or improper disposal, with an estimated 90% released during end-of-life equipment disposal.

Montreal Protocol

  • About: It is gradually eliminating the production and consumption of ozone depleting substances to limit their damage to the earth's ozone layer.

oIn 1987, nearly 200 countries ratified the Montreal Protocol, committing to halt the production and consumption of ozone-depleting substances such as CFCs at their current levels.

  • Phasing out CFCs and HCFCs: Countries agreed to phase out CFCs by 1996 and HCFCs by 2030 under the Montreal Protocol. 

oHCFCs were considered an interim solution due to their lesser harm to the ozone layer compared to CFCs.

  • Rise of HFCs: With the phase-out of CFCs and HCFCs, HFCs emerged as the primary refrigerant choice due to their zero ozone-depleting potential (ODP). However, it was later recognized that HFCs also contribute significantly to global warming as potent greenhouse gases.

Kigali Agreement:

  • The Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol is an international agreement to gradually reduce the consumption and production of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).
  • It is a legally binding agreement designed to create rights and obligations in international law.
  • As of October 3, 2023, 155 states, including the European Union & India have ratified the Kigali Amendment.
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