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Destruction of Ozone Depleting Substances

Daniel A. Reifsnyder, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Environment and Sustainable Development
Remarks to the 28th Meeting of the Open Ended Working Group of the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer
Bangkok, Thailand
July 7, 2008

The Montreal Protocol is rightly recognized as the most successful multilateral environmental agreement ever negotiated because of all we have accomplished in this forum, having phased out of 95% of ODS consumption. Just last year, we set for ourselves an ambitious new acceleration of our program of work that will provide additional ozone and climate system protection.

At the same time, colleagues may recall the statement of our Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Steve Johnson last September in Montreal at the 20th Anniversary Plenary, in which he noted our interest in the issue of destruction. Like other governments, we have been looking with concern over the past few years at the banks of CFCs and other ODS that are slowly leaking into the environment.

There is a wide range of substances, with enormous variability in ozone depletion potential (ODP), global warming potential (GWP), accessibility, and cost associated with identifying and collecting these materials. We think it will be important at this meeting to begin the process of developing a shared vision of what we all mean by destruction and what the options may be for addressing this issue.

That said, we are mindful of several things:

  • First, action on destruction would be new under the Montreal Protocol, which has concerned itself to date with production and consumption – in this sense, we may need to chart new ground in considering the destruction issue;
  • Second, destruction, though new here, is not new to a number of Parties who have been addressing it domestically for some time – we should seek to learn from their experiences and approaches;
  • Third, we must work expeditiously because there is a limited ‘window of opportunity’ – a large percentage of existing banks will have leaked into the atmosphere by 2015 if not destroyed sooner;
  • Fourth, as noted, we need to develop a shared vision of what we mean by “destruction”, of what can be done about it cost-effectively, and of what the benefits may be. In this regard, we believe that approaches to destruction should create “opportunities” for action – we would not favor mandates in this area;
  • Fifth, we are conscious that there will likely be benefits on both the ozone and on the climate sides of the ledger; in this regard, it will be important to consider appropriate links to those working to limit and reduce emissions under the UNFCCC and in particular to consider how these efforts may most appropriately be funded;
  • Sixth, notwithstanding our strong interest in the issue and opportunities of destruction, we are mindful of the significant work before us to complete the phaseout of CFCs, of the significant work we have initiated as the result of our decision last September to accelerate the phaseout of HCFCs, and of the need to agree on a realistic replenishment of the Multilateral Fund for the next triennium – we must not neglect or undermine these important efforts even inadvertently.

We are encouraged by the proposals on destruction from Micronesia/Mauritius and from Argentina. At the same time, we do have some legal concerns about how we move forward on this issue. It is important to follow the procedures outlined in the Convention.

There are many issues we are going to need to work through in a deliberate manner as part of those efforts to understand better what is being proposed, including:
  • What substances is there an interest in destroying? Only CFCs, or also halons, HCFCs, methyl bromide, etc.
  • Are we focused on ‘accessible’ CFCs or banks, which are much more cost-effective to destroy?
  • What are plans to identify servicing needs?

We look forward to exploring the proposals in more detail and thinking creatively about how to encourage destruction of ODS. Destruction – never before covered by the Protocol – presents an array of complex substantive and legal issues. We anticipate a robust and interesting exchange of ideas about how the Parties to the Protocol might play a role in addressing existing banks of ODS.

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