Skip to main content

The importance of phasing down hydrofluorocarbons and other short-lived climate pollutants


While negotiations continue for a United Nations (UN) Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC) by December 2015 to take effect in 2020, a parallel effort to achieve fast climate mitigation is needed under the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (Montreal Protocol) to slow current impacts and reduce risks of passing tipping points that trigger self-amplifying feedback mechanisms that accelerate warming. Fast reductions of short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs), including black carbon (BC), methane (CH4), tropospheric ozone (TO3), and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), can cut the rate of climate change in half by mid-century and by two thirds in the Arctic. The Montreal Protocol can be used to quickly phase down production and consumption of high global warming potential (GWP) HFCs, which can avoid 0.1 °C of warming by 2050, and 0.5 °C by 2100, while catalyzing improvements in appliance energy efficiency, which will provide further climate change mitigation by reducing energy use and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, particularly in fast-growing economies like India and China. The simultaneous global deployment of existing technologies can reduce emissions of BC, CH4, and TO3 by enough to avoid an additional 0.5 °C of warming by 2050, while providing immediate benefits for human health, agriculture, and sustainable development. Fast action to reduce the four SLCPs will reduce the risk of setting off irreversible feedback mechanisms and provide urgent optimism and momentum for a successful UN climate treaty in 2015.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig 1


  1. Andersen SO, Sarma KM (2002) Protecting the ozone layer: the United Nations history. Routledge

  2. Andersen SO, Halberstadt ML, Borgford-Parnell NA (2013) Stratospheric ozone, global warming, and the principle of unintended consequences—an ongoing science and policy success story. J Air Waste Manag Assoc 63(6):607–647

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  3. Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (2011) Snow, water, ice and permafrost in the arctic (SWIPA): climate change and the cryosphere. Oslo, Norway

  4. Avnery S, Mauzerall DL, Jiu J, Horowitz LW (2011) Global crop yield reductions due to surface ozone exposure: year 2030 potential crop production losses and economic damage under two scenarios of O3 pollution. Atmos Environ 45:2297–2309. doi:10.1016/j.atmosenv.2011.01.002

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  5. Bindoff P, Stott A (Co-Coordinating Lead Authors) (2013) Chapter 10: Detection and attribution of climate change: from global to regional, in ipcc (2013) climate change 2013: The Physical Science Basis, Working Group I Contribution to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

  6. Burney J, Ramanathan V (2014) Recent climate and air pollution impacts on Indian agriculture. Proc Natl Acad Sci. doi:10.1073/pnas.1317275111

    Google Scholar 

  7. Carvalho S, Andersen SO, Brack D, Sherman NJ (2014) Alternatives to high-GWP hydrofluorocarbons. Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development, Washington

    Google Scholar 

  8. CCAC (2014) UN climate summit commitment to reduce short-lived climate pollutants, and their impacts in oil & gas, green freight, HFCs alternatives, and municipal waste.

  9. CEM—Clean Energy Ministerial (2014) Energy efficient cooling and demand response.

  10. CSC—China State Council (2014) 2014–2015 energy conservation, emissions reduction and low carbon development action plan (in Chinese)

  11. EC—European Council (2013) Submission by Ireland and the European Commission of the European Union and its Member States

  12. US EPA—Environmental Protection Agency (2002) Building owners save money, save the earth: replace your CFC air-conditioning chiller. Washington DC

  13. EU (2014) Regulation (EU) No 517/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 April 2014 on fluorinated gases and repealing regulation (EC) No 842/2006.

  14. Hansen JE, Lacis AA, Lee P, Wang W-C (1980) Climatic effects of atmospheric aerosols. Annals of the New York Academy of Science 338(1): doi:10.1111/j.1749-6632.1980.tb17151.x

  15. IEA (2013) World energy outlook 2013: factsheet—how will global energy markets evolve to 2035?

  16. IEEFA—Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (2014) Briefing note Indian power prices

  17. INMP&NG—(Indian Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas) (2013) Roadmap for reduction in import dependency in hydrocarbon sector by 2030—part 1. New Delhi, India

  18. Molina M, Zaelke D, Ramanathan V, Andersen SO, Kaniaru D (2009) Reducing abrupt climate change risk using the Montreal Protocol and other regulatory actions to complement cuts in CO2 emissions. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 106(49):20616–20621. doi:10.1073/pnas.0902568106

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  19. Phadke A, Abhyankar N, Shah N (2014) Avoiding 100 new power plants by increasing efficiency of room air conditioners in India: opportunities and challenges. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley

    Book  Google Scholar 

  20. Ramanathan V (1975) Greenhouse effect due to chlorofluorocarbons: climatic implications. Science 190:50–52

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  21. Sarma MS, Andersen SO, Zaelke D, Taddonio K (2009) Ozone layer, international protection. In R. Wolfrum (ed.) (2012) The Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law

  22. Shindell D et al (2012) Simultaneously mitigating near-term climate change and improving human health and food security. Science 335(6065):183–189. doi:10.1126/science.1210026

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  23. UNEP (2012) Report of the sixty-fifth meeting of the executive committee of the multilateral fund for the implementation of the Montreal Protocol. UN Doc. UNEP/OzL.Pro/ExCom/65/60/Corr.1, Annex 1

  24. UNEP (2014a) Proposed amendment to the Montreal Protocol submitted by the Federated States of Micronesia. UNEP/OzL.Pro.WG.1/34/5

  25. UNEP (2014b) Proposed amendment to the Montreal Protocol submitted by Canada, Mexico and the United States of America. UNEP/OzL.Pro.WG.1/34/4

  26. UNEP (2014c) Enabling a global phase-down of hydrofluorocarbons: discussion paper submitted by the European Union. UNEP/OzL.Pro/26/INF/7.

  27. UNEP and CCAC—Climate and Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short-lived Climate Pollutants (2014) Low-GWP alternatives in commercial refrigeration: propane, CO2, and HFO case studies. Nairobi, Kenya

  28. UNEP and WMO—World Meteorological Organization (2011) Integrated assessment of black carbon and tropospheric ozone. Nairobi, Kenya

  29. UNEP—United Nations Environment Programme (2011a) Near-term climate protection and clean air benefits: actions for controlling short-lived climate forcers—a UNEP synthesis report. Nairobi, Kenya

  30. UNEP—United Nations Environment Programme (2011b) HFCs: a critical link in protecting climate and the ozone layer—a UNEP synthesis report. Nairobi, Kenya

  31. UN—United Nations (2012) Resolution adopted by the general assembly: the future we want, A/res/66/288.

  32. US EPA (2014) Protection of stratospheric ozone: determination 29 for significant new alternatives policy program. 40 CFR Part 82

  33. US DOS (2014) US-India energy and climate change cooperation.

  34. US DOS—Department of State (2013) United States and China reach agreement on phase down of HFCs.

  35. Velders GJM, Fahey DW, Daniel JS, McFarland M, Andersen SO (2009) The large contribution of projected HFC emissions to future climate forcing. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 106:10949–54. doi:10.1073/pnas.0902817106

  36. Velders GJM, Ravishankara AR, Miller MK, Molina MJ, Alcamo J, Daniel JS, Fahey DW, Montzka SA, Reimann S (2012) Preserving Montreal Protocol climate benefits by limiting HFCs. Science 335:922–923. doi:10.1126/science.1216414

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  37. Wang W-C, Yung YL, Lacis AA, Mo T, Hansen JE (1976) Greenhouse effects due to man-made perturbation of trace gases. Science 194:685–690. doi:10.1126/science.194.4266.685

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  38. WB—World Bank (2013) Methane finance study group report: using pay-for-performance mechanisms to finance methane abatement

  39. WHO—World Health Organization (2014) Burden of disease from the joint effect of household and ambient air pollution for 2012

  40. Xu Y, Zaelke D, Velders GJM, Ramanathan V (2013) The role of HFCs in mitigating 21st century climate change. Atmos Chem Phys 13:6083–6089. doi:10.5194/acp-13-6083-2013

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  41. Zaelke D, Andersen SO, Borgford-Parnell NA (2012) Strengthening ambition for climate mitigation: the role of the Montreal Protocol in reducing short-lived climate pollutants. Rev Eur Compliance Int Environ Law 21(3):231–242

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Durwood Zaelke.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Zaelke, D., Borgford-Parnell, N. The importance of phasing down hydrofluorocarbons and other short-lived climate pollutants. J Environ Stud Sci 5, 169–175 (2015).

Download citation


  • Short-lived climate pollutants
  • Hydrofluorocarbons
  • Climate change
  • Fast-action mitigation