Rwanda and the Montreal Protocol

medium_laurel3.jpgThe weekly Verdigris blog by Laurel Brunner

The printing and publishing industries, are just like any other services sector. They are about profit and investments for the future health of individual businesses and of the industry as a whole. But when it comes to the health of the environment, sustainability is just one little fragment of most companies’ thinking. The day to day dramas associated with running the business often matter more than having concrete sustainability goals. This is especially true for small to medium sized enterprises, the companies that make up the bulk of our industry.

This means environmental trends in the graphics industry are hard to drive or spot. Wholesale change tends to depend on individual committments or come about because of regulation. There is also a degree of complacency, an inclination to trust to governments and international bodies. This is why we should all welcome the recent news from Rwanda.

At a United Nations working group meeting held in Rwanda a few weeks ago almost 200 countries accepted an amendment to the Montreal protocol proposed by the European Union (EU). The Montreal Protocol is complex document agreed in 1989 in response to the depletion of the ozone layer. It’s all about harmonising national policies to counter activities that have an adverse affect on the ozone layer. The EU’s agreed amendment is to avoid and phase out by 2019 the use of hydrofluorcarbons (HFCs). HFCs are commonly used as replacements for chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), which are ozone depleting substances. HFCs do not damage the ozone layer, but they do have high global warming potential, so they aggravate climate change.

According to the agreement countries can choose their baseline years for measuring phasedowns, the percentage of HCFCs included and their reduction steps. They can choose their own pathways, for gradual chilling prior to the final freeze. Under the agreement developed countries will contribute to the cost of actions in developing countries towards implementing it.

This is a huge step forward. The agreement will encourage further innovation in frigerant technologies, and create opportunities for new product development. Countries have considerable flexibility to achieve the phase-down, so the amendment can be integrated into national and local environmental policies. US Secretary of State John Kerry said of the agreement that “it’s a monumental step forward, that addresses the needs of individual nations”.

For those graphics professionals who care, we can take some comfort in the ambitious efforts underway to improve global sustainability. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t all be doing our bit. Even in places where sustainability is more about making ends meet than cutting emissions, more can always be done. Cutting waste and inefficiency cuts costs as well as pollution, so sustainability policies are about business sustainability too.

– Laurel Brunner

The Verdigris project is an industry initiative intended to raise awareness of print’s positive environmental impact. It provides a weekly commentary to help printing companies keep up to date with environmental standards, and how environmentally friendly business management can help improve their bottom lines. Verdigris is supported by the following companies: Agfa Graphics, EFI, Epson, Fespa, HP, Kodak, Kornit, Ricoh, Spindrift, Splash PR, Unity Publishing and Xeikon.

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