The WCO welcomes 'New Deal' to phase out HFCs under the Montreal Protocol

Brussels, 18 October 2016

Press Release

The 1987 Montreal Protocol, considered by many to be the most successful multilateral environmental agreement, is an international agreement which contributes towards the substantial reduction in emissions of substances that deplete the ozone layer, such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) which were phased out under the Protocol.

Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which were designed to replace CFCs and are widely used in refrigerants, have recently been the subject of criticism as they are also highly potent greenhouse gases – more potent that carbon dioxide (CO2). The use of HFCs is on the increase, especially as air conditioners and other cooling devices become more affordable.

As a result, governments have attempted to amend the Montreal Protocol for the past seven years to end the use of HFCs, to which there are already a number of alternatives. This has culminated in a ‘New Deal’, reached in October 2016 in Kigali, Rwanda, where the governments of 150 countries settled on a compromise agreement to phase out HFCs. It is believed that this agreement will contribute towards curbing global warming by as much as 0.5 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, and is estimated to be equal to halting the world’s fossil fuel CO2 emissions for more than two years.

Developed countries will start phasing-down the use of HFCs from the beginning of 2019, and developing countries, with a few exceptions, will freeze their HFC consumption levels as of 2024. By the late 2040s, all countries are expected to consume no more than 15-20 per cent of their baseline levels.

Countries usually monitor the consumption of such products through a quota allocation system, product stewardship, compliance inspections, and a licensing system. Customs administrations are key actors in these control schemes as they are the ones largely responsible for collecting all the trade data needed to monitor and control the trade, and to detect and prevent any illegal trade.

As the phase-out of HFCs progresses in the coming years, the vigilance and dedication of Customs officers will be heavily relied upon to facilitate legal trade, and to combat illegal trade. In this regard, the WCO, in its continued effort to fight global warming, will continue to support Customs officers around the world through its Green Customs Initiative, launched in 2001 alongside its partner organizations: the Secretariats of the Basel, Stockholm and Rotterdam Conventions; the Secretariats of the CITES, Montreal and Cartagena Protocols; the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW); the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP); and INTERPOL.

Under the Green Customs Initiative, Customs officials are sensitized and trained towards the common goal of halting global warming, and making certain that the movement of goods with the potential to damage the environment are done within current legal frameworks, ultimately ensuring the continued success of the Montreal Protocol.