The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer is viewed by many as the most successful international agreement to protect the environment. Signed in September 1987, the Montreal Protocol focused on targeting compounds that were linked to ozone depletion. It has been amended and adjusted since then to provide more restrictive timetables on the production phaseout of these substances, particularly as alternatives were introduced. Among the compounds, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) were set on a phaseout schedule for year-end 1995 in developed countries and 2009 in developing countries. After two decades, the treaty has led to substantial reductions in the use and the emissions of the most ozone depleting substances. While its focus was elimination of ozone depleting substances, because of the global warming potential of the covered substances, the treaty has also had the additional impact of reducing greenhouse gas emissions five-fold over what the Kyoto Protocol would have accomplished had it been fully implemented by all countries.
In March 1988, the Ozone Trends Panel Report issued the first scientifically-backed global consensus linking CFCs to observed depletion of the stratospheric ozone layer. Within 10 days of the announcement, DuPont committed to cease CFC production for use through an orderly transition to alternatives, putting DuPont ahead of the then current timetable requiring only a 50% reduction in 10 years. We also identified key internal steps we needed to take concerning our own use of CFCs.
DuPont played a pivotal role in creating the next generation of products that replaced CFCs, and helped usher in a new era of more environmentally beneficial products to meet critical societal needs, including refrigeration and air conditioning. DuPont led the industry in the phaseout of CFCs and transition to more environmentally acceptable alternatives. To accomplish this, the company invested more than $500 million to develop and commercialize CFC alternatives.
At the time, DuPont estimated that more than $135 billion of existing equipment in the U.S. alone depended on CFCs. In January 1991, DuPont was the first company to launch a family of refrigerant alternatives that met performance, safety and environmental criteria. These new refrigerants could be used in existing as well as new equipment, thus minimizing the transition cost to thousands of businesses and consumers around the world DuPont has launched 30 alternatives and has been awarded more than 565 patents worldwide to help meet the phaseout schedules of the Montreal Protocol.
DuPont exceeded the original commitment and ceased production of CFCs in developed countries in 1995, and closed its final production facility in a developing country, Brazil, in 1999.
In 2003, DuPont was awarded the U.S. National Medal of Technology for CFC Policy and Technology Leadership.
DuPont established and implemented a global policy for internal use of CFCs as refrigerants in 1991:
- New equipment containing CFC refrigerants could no longer be purchased;
- For existing facilities and acquisitions going forward, the policy required retrofitting with approved alternative refrigerants; replacing with equipment that used approved alternative refrigerants; or shutting down, evacuating, and retiring the equipment.
The corporation continues to monitor and track compliance with the policy.
The Montreal Protocol allows for the ongoing use of CFCs for certain processing applications. Use of the CFCs and emissions from the process uses are reported to appropriate government agencies. DuPont originally had three approved uses and has eliminated two.
We still use a CFC as an approved processing aid to make one of our products ─ a synthetic, fiber sheeting used primarily in regulated healthcare and other applications. DuPont is working with the value chain and regulators to qualify an acceptable alternative processing aid.
We have made substantial progress not only for our company but allowing other companies to be compliant and end their reliance on CFCs. Dramatic engineering improvements in containment have led to a 99.98% recovery rate of all processing agent.
Given the success of the Montreal Protocol, DuPont is now engaged in advocacy work to add hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) to the Montreal Protocol. HFCs are non-ozone-depleting products that have served a critical role in replacing CFCs, but also are global warming gases. We believe that by developing a cap and reduction plan for HFCs, similar to what was done under the Montreal Protocol for CFCs and other ozone depleting materials, significant progress can be made in reducing the climate change impacts of HFCs and transitioning society to even better alternatives.
The Montreal Protocol clearly shows that international cooperation among all stakeholders, with flexible regulations designed to stimulate innovation, can lead to rapid progress toward protection of the global environment.