The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer is viewed by many as the most successful international agreement to protect the environment. Signed in August 1987 and enforced starting in January 1989, the Montreal Protocol focused on targeting compounds that were linked to ozone depletion. Since then, it has been updated eight times—in 1990 (London), 1991 (Nairobi), 1992 (Copenhagen), 1993 (Bangkok), 1995 (Vienna), 1997 (Montreal), 1998 (Australia), 1999 (Beijing) and 2016 (Kigali). Many of the amendments and adjustments served to expand the scope of compounds regulated by the Montreal Protocol, or provide more restrictive timetables on the production phase out of these substances, particularly as viable alternatives were introduced.
Among the regulated compounds, production of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) were set on a phase out schedule for year-end 1995 in developed countries and 2009 in developing countries. Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs,), used as a transitional replacement for CFCs due to its lower potential for ozone depletion, began phasing out in 1996 with complete phasing-out scheduled to be achieved by 2030. Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs)replaced CFCs and HCFCs as refrigerants and in air conditioning. Although HFCs are not ozone depleting substances (ODS), they are greenhouse gases with a high global warming potential (GWP).
In 2016, Parties to the Montreal Protocol adopted the Kigali amendment to phase down the production and usage of HFCs. Starting in 2019, developed countries are to begin bringing down their HFC consumption by at least 85% by 2036 compared to their annual average values in the period 2011-2013; all developing countries are mandated to reduce their HFC use by 85% by 2047 at the latest. Hydrofluoroolefins (HFOs), refrigerants with about 0.1% of the global warming potential of HFCs, have been identified by the private sector and scientific community as an appropriate alternative to HFCs.
While its focus was elimination of ODS, because of the global warming potential of the covered substances, the treaty has also had the additional impact of reducing greenhouse gas emissions five-fold over what the Kyoto Protocol would have accomplished had it been fully implemented by all countries, according to a 2007 scientific report. Despite more recent setbacks in compliance, a 2006 joint study conducted by U.S., European and international scientific agencies found that “the Montreal Protocol is working: There is clear evidence of a decrease in the atmospheric burden of ozone-depleting substances and some early signs of stratospheric ozone recovery.” Furthermore, a 2015 EPA report estimates that “full implementation of the Montreal Protocol, including its Amendments and Adjustments, is expected to avoid more than 280 million cases of skin cancer, approximately 1.6 million skin cancer deaths, and more than 45 million cases of cataract in the United States.
In March 1988, the Ozone Trends Panel Report issued the first scientifically-backed global consensus linking CFCs to observed depletion of the stratospheric ozone layer. Within 10 days of the announcement, DuPont committed to cease CFC production for use through an orderly transition to alternatives, putting DuPont ahead of the then-current timetable of 50% reduction in 10 years. DuPont exceeded the original commitment and ceased production of CFCs in developed countries in 1995, and closed its final production facility in a developing country, Brazil, in 1999. In 2003, DuPont was awarded the U.S. National Medal of Technology for CFC Policy and Technology Leadership.
We played a pivotal role in creating the next generation of products that replaced CFCs, and helped usher in a new era of more environmentally beneficial products to meet critical societal needs, including refrigeration and air conditioning. At the time, DuPont estimated that more than $135 billion of existing equipment in the U.S. alone depended on CFCs. In January 1991, DuPont was the first company to launch a family of refrigerant alternatives that met performance, safety and environmental criteria. These new refrigerants could be used in existing as well as new equipment, thus minimizing the transition cost to thousands of businesses and consumers around the world. To accomplish this, the company invested more than $500 million to develop and commercialize CFC alternatives. DuPont has launched 30 alternatives and has been awarded more than 565 patents worldwide to help meet the phaseout schedules of the Montreal Protocol.
In 2015, we ceased manufacturing refrigerants, including both HCFCs and HFCs, when we spun off the Chemours business.
After the Ozone Trends Panel Report was released, we also identified key internal steps we needed to take concerning our own use of CFCs. DuPont established and implemented a global policy for internal use of CFCs as refrigerants in 1991:
The Montreal Protocol allows for the ongoing use of CFCs for certain processing applications that have no suitable substitutes. DuPont originally had three approved uses, and has since eliminated two. We still use a CFC as an approved processing aid to make one of our products, a synthetic fiber sheeting used in regulated healthcare and protective apparel, among other applications. While most of this production has been converted to different processing aids, we plan to continue to use our remaining CFC inventory and additional reclaimed material until the available supply is consumed. Dramatic engineering improvements in containment have led to a 99.98% recovery rate of all CFC processing aid. While products manufactured with this process are exempt from EPA labeling requirements, DuPont adheres to all EPA reporting requirements related to use of CFCs as a processing aid, and resulting emissions from the process.