In 1987, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) adopted the Montreal Protocol, a resolution aimed at reducing the production and consumption of over 100 man-made chemicals that negatively impact the environment. One of only a handful of treatises to achieve universal ratification, the Montreal Protocol’s guidelines play an important role in modern environmental regulation and the fight against climate change.
Recently, the United States ratified the Protocol’s Kigali Amendment. Cold chain, the “invisible backbone” of the modern supply chain, is now firmly on the radar of the policy makers, with important implications for multiple major industries.
What is the Kigali Amendment?
In 2016, at a UNIDO conference held in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, 170 participating countries voted to amend the Montreal Protocol to include a phase-down of traditional refrigerants.
For years, scientists have known that hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) – chemical byproducts of traditional refrigeration – act as powerful greenhouse gasses, trapping excess heat in the atmosphere and accelerating climate change.
Since the amendment’s passing, UNIDO has made efforts to assist developing countries with the transition to climate-friendly alternatives. Developing nations often rely on older classes of chemicals, including HCFCs and CFCs, to fuel rapid industrialization.
Meanwhile, at the 4th session of the United Nations Environmental Assembly (UNEA), held in 2019 in Nairobi, Kenya, 23 new resolutions were adopted under an overall theme of “Innovative Solutions for Environmental Challenges and Sustainable Consumption and Production.”
The 8th resolution, titled “Sound Management of Chemicals and Waste,” reinforces the need for global governments, enterprises, and citizens to use science-based principles when choosing and disposing of chemicals. It anticipates that chemical production is expected to triple by 2050, making good policy crucial in the years ahead. This includes close adherence to the Kigali Amendment.
The US inches forward
Unfortunately, although the United States is a signatory of Kigali and UNEA4, federal policy implementation was slow to catch up. In the relative absence of federal activity, states began implementing their own restrictions on HCFCs and CFCs; California led the way, and 25 states followed using similar plans.
That said, momentum did exist on a federal level. The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) passed its 22nd amendment in 2018, restricting the acceptable use of flammable A2L refrigerants, which are major sources of negative carbon byproducts.
Then, in 2021, the EPA passed the AIM Act, focusing federal resources on phasing down and replacing problematic refrigerants. That same year, the 23rd SNAP amendment was passed. Rule 23 lists 9 substitutes for refrigeration and air conditioning, with an emphasis on reducing the use of A2L refrigerants.
Today, national and international bodies are renewing their focus on the phase-down of traditional refrigerants. Viable alternatives exist, but uptake has been relatively slow: a natural consequence of the real challenge associated with reinventing storage and supply chains.
In the future, however, as climate change impacts global production and supply chains, HCFC- and CFC-free cold storage will become a necessity, not a luxury. The use of refrigerants that negatively impact the environment will disrupt trade, hurt economies, and destabilize the planet. Finding affordable, eco-friendly alternatives should be a top priority for anybody concerned with future-proofing their business or consumption habits.
If that’s you, the team at Artyc would love to talk.