China continues major action to cut ozone depleting chemicals

President Xi Jinping said that China has decided to accept the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer on 16 April 2021.

The announcement came as part of Xi’s conversation with Chancellor Merkel of Germany and President Macron of France. It is seen as a major global climate win that should also lend a boost of confidence to broader climate talks heating up this year.

Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) are a class of ozone depleting chemicals used in refrigeration. They are also very powerful green house gases. The USA (37%) and China (25%) are the two largest manufacturers of HFCs.

The U.S. and China affirmed their joint commitment to phasing down HFCs in line with the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol yesterday, following two days of talks between U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry and China Special Envoy for Climate Change Xie Zhenhua. The joint China-US statement, part of a larger package of collaborative approaches to tackling the climate crisis, followed China’s decision to accept the Kigali Amendment land announcde a week earlier.

The move will solidify China’s climate credentials in the Montreal Protocol forum—which focuses on cooling-related industries using fluorocarbon technology—and signals to several other major economies that China is fully on board the major market transition that is already underway.

The HFC phase-down also brings with it significant energy savings and air pollution reduction co-benefit: Industries have the opportunity to upgrade their technology and improve the efficiency of their manufacturing processes and cooling appliances while making the switch to climate-friendly alternatives to HFC. Improving the energy efficiency of cooling equipment in parallel with the HFC phase-down could potentially more than double the climate benefits of the Kigali Amendment. A recent study finds that if all the economic potential for energy efficiency improvements is fully captured, the cooling electricity savings could be as high as 15% of the world’s future electricity consumption. Electricity savings also mean improved air quality from reduced sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and fine particulate matters emissions that result from power generation.

China continues major action to cut ozone depleting chemicals, image #1

China’s Actions to date

China is already on its way to implementing an HFC phasedown with major energy efficiency co-benefits. Along with ratifying the amendment, China is also developing regulations to support the enforcement of the HFC phase-down. Additionally, China has already committed to strengthening cooling efficiency with the release of its Green and High Efficiency Cooling Actin Plan in 2019.

The Plan aims to improve residential air conditioners energy efficiency by 30% by 2022 and set targets for other cooling appliances as well as an additional 15% improvement for major cooling products by 2030. Already, China’s new minimum energy performance standard for room air conditioners which came into effect last July is among the most ambitious in the world, with an average 15% improvement in energy efficiency. Once fully implemented, the Plan will reduce annual CO2 emissions by approximately 100 MMT/year in 2030, the equivalent to taking 2-3 dozen 500 megawatt powerplants off the grid.

By the end of last year, China was able to reduce emissions of HFC23, a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, by 65,300 metric tons, which is equivalent to 966 million tons of carbon dioxide.

China produces 70% of the world’s room air conditioners. The new Chinese energy efficiency standards, and those on HFCs expected under the Kigali Amendment, send a clear signal that China can supply efficient, climate friendly models to any country that wants them. The United for Efficiency (U4E)—a U.N. initiative working to reduce appliance energy use in emerging economies (and of which NRDC is a founding partner)—has published model regulations that can be adopted by countries to reduce energy use of new air conditioners and refrigerators as well as harmful emissions from the refrigerant gases they use. The U4E energy efficiency recommendations are largely consistent with China’s new standard and will help countries that import air conditioners set energy efficiency regulations that demand performance as good or better than the new Chinese standard.

Market players and governments should take from China’s ratification announcement a clear signal that climate ambition in the cooling sector is fast becoming a necessity to stay competitive in the global market.

The Kigali Amendment aims to phase down HFC production worldwide by at least 80 percent over the coming decades under the Montreal Protocol. Commonly used in air conditioners, refrigeration equipment and foam insulation, HFCs are super greenhouse gases that, kilogram-for-kilogram, are on average several thousand times more potent than CO2 as a contributor to climate change. If fully implemented, the Kigali Amendment could prevent up to 0.5°C of global warming by the end of this century.

China’s ratification couldn’t be more important to the success of the global HFC phasedown. The country’s formidable manufacturing base churns out some 70% of the world’s room air conditioners and much of the world’s other HFC-using appliances. China’s chemicals industry also produces the vast majority of the world’s HFC gases today. China’s participation in Kigali thus brings along more than half of the world’s HFC production and use.

There are a few likely next steps before China’s ratification becomes official. Once ready, the government will send formal paperwork, called an instrument of ratification, to the United Nations. Once the instrument of ratification is deposited with the U.N. all will be said and done.

Sources:

NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council, USA)  https://www.nrdc.org/…/china-gives-cool-boost-effort…

China Daily. 2021-04-28  http://www.ecns.cn/…/2021…/detail-ihakufzf0697867.shtml

UNEP Fact Sheet https://wedocs.unep.org/…/26589/HFC_Phasedown_EN.pdf…