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China Takes Steps to Address HFC-23 Emissions in Advance of International Ozone Day


China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment released the Circular on Controlling the Emissions of HFC-23 By-products (hereinafter referred to as “the Circular”) in advance of World Ozone Day, which falls on 16 September each year. The Circular was issued as part of China’s efforts to implement the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. The Circular enters into effect 15 September 2021.

The Circular prohibits direct emissions of hydrofluorocarbon-23 (HFC-23) from production processes for hydrochlorofluorocarbon-22 (HCFC-22) and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) as of its effective date. The Circular also provides that, except for feedstock and controlled usages, HFC-23 shall be destroyed to the extent practicable using technology approved by the Parties to the Montreal Protocol. This is consistent with language from the Montreal Protocol (as amended) in Article 2J, paras. 6 and 7.

Additionally, the Circular specifies that companies must install HFC-23 storage facilities or take other measures to avoid emergent HFC-23 emissions. In cases when the HFC-23 destruction and storage facilities are out of order, the HCFC-22 or HFC production processes must be paused to avoid HFC-23 emissions. The Circular also encourages technology innovation to reduce the rate of HFC-23 generation as a by-product and promote resource utilization of HFC-23 as a feedstock.

The Ministry of Ecology and Environment has the authority to conduct inspections at the companies for potential leakage or emission of HFC-23. The MEE plans to later issue a separate regulation on the requirements for HFC-23 data collection and submission.

The Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, agreed by the Parties in October 2016, represents the single biggest piece of climate mitigation to date. At a virtual summit with President Macron of France and Chancellor Merkel of Germany on 16 April 2021, China’s President Xi Jinping announced that China will accept the Kigali Amendment. On 17 June 2021, China submitted the ratification document for the Kigali Amendment which went into effect in China on 15 September 2021.

A fast HFC phasedown can avoid up to 0.5°C of future warming by 2100. As observed in K.M. Stanley et al. (2020), HFC-23 has the highest global warming potential among all HFCs, and it is predominantly produced during the manufacturing of HCFC-22 refrigerants. Beyond phasing down HFCs, improving the energy efficiency of cooling equipment has the potential to at least double the climate benefits of the Kigali Amendment in the near term.

To date, 125 countries have ratified the Kigali Amendment.

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