bhutan fast tracks its commitment

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Bhutan commits to phase out HCFCs a decade earlier than other countries

After Bhutan successfully met an international obligation this year, it has embarked on a more challenging task by committing to fulfill another obligation a decade before the international deadline.

Bhutan completely phased out chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) by the beginning of this year which was the deadline prescribed by the Montreal Protocol. Now, Bhutan has committed a complete phase-out of hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) in the country by 2020, ten years before the Protocol deadline.

“Our decision to phase out HCFCs will demonstrate to the world our determination to protect our planet,” said Peldon Tshering, the National Ozone Officer of the National Environment Commission Secretariat.

All 196 countries signatory to the Montreal Protocol have to start phasing out HCFCs, an ozone depleting substance (ODS), by 2030 according to the Protocol.

The 19th Meeting of Parties to the Montreal Protocol in 2007 called for the accelerated phase out of HCFCs with specific reduction targets as well as directions for the Executive Committee and the Parties to expedite actions that will prioritise projects and programs to meet the phase-out.

However, this is not going to be easy for Bhutan. The senior regional coordinator, United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), Mr. Atul Bagai, said the phase-out of the gas will be a challenging task for Bhutan.

Even if Bhutan phases out HCFC by 2020, he said neighboring countries like China, India and Thailand which are popular import destinations for Bhutan would still produce HCFC and HCFC based equipments beyond 2020. “The challenge on Bhutan’s side is to see that such equipments do not enter Bhutan,” he said.

Peldon Tshering said Bhutan will be able to phase out HCFC faster than other countries as Bhutan is not a large consumer of the HCFCs.

“With concentrated efforts and cooperation from all the different sectors, we would be able to phase out by 2020, especially as our sectors are small,” she said.

“Such a strong commitment of Bhutan to Phase-out HCFC will help Bhutan reach its ambitious target. OzonAction Program will work shoulder to shoulder with Bhutan to stop the consumption of this group of chemicals earlier than the Montreal Protocol phase-out deadline, as was done when CFCs were phased out by Bhutan” said the head of UNEP OzonAction Program, Mr. Rajendra Shende. He added that OzonAction would help by providing capacity building and technology support.

Some of the Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS) which have successfully been banned after 2005 include eight types of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and Carbon Tetrachloride (CTC).

HCFCs are produced from equipments used for refrigeration, air conditioning and manufacturing of insulation foams. HCFC producing equipments are largely used by big industries, hotels and resorts, corporate offices, governmental sectors as well as domestic services.

According to the HCFC Phase out Management Plan (HPMP), in 2009-10, the Bhutanese industrial sector used 1,174.5 kilograms of HCFC, hotels and resorts used 543.8 kg, large offices used 3,294 kg and domestic services used 513.3 kg.

To phase out the use of HCFC, various strategies are being created by the NEC including retrofitting of industries, end user conversion, incentive program for domestic refrigeration conversion, and equipment support to vocational training institute for MAC curriculum. It also includes capacity building exercises like strengthening of enforcement officers, ozone officers, custom officers, refrigeration technicians, and technician training in retrofitting.

Strategy to use advocacy material to create awareness is also put in place. One such advocacy material is a 3D stamp that would be introduced as the first ever 3D stamp in the world creating awareness on the impact of HCFC.

The NEC has initiated the development of the HCFC Phase-out Management Plan (HPMP) for Bhutan and is in the final stages of its development with assistance from UNEP and UNDP.

The HCFC Phase-out Management Plan is an overarching plan with a staged approach to achieve total phase-out. The first stage is to provide concrete funding proposals to freeze the target amount by 2013 and then a subsequent 10% reduction by 2015.

The 147 countries under Article 5 of the Montreal Protocoal, which includes Bhutan, that have a total HCFC consumption of up to 360 metric tons will be provided funding consistent with the level of consumption in the refrigeration servicing sector on the understanding that project proposals will still need to demonstrate that the funding level is necessary to achieve the 2013 and 2015 phase-out targets.