Afghanistan tackling HCFC use

This month national stakeholders, industry, civil society, government officials and international environment experts gathered in Kabul to raise awareness of and implement a national phase-out plan for HCFCs.

This month in Kabul, Afghanistan, national stakeholders, industry, civil society, government officials and international environment experts gathered to tackle the country’s use of ozone-depleting substances (ODPs) by raising awareness and implementing a national phase-out plan. The Central Asian country is also looking into alternatives to HCFCs like natural refrigerants.

In addition to a three-day training course for customs officers who monitor the use of hydrocholoflurocarbons (HCFCs) – an ODP substance that harms the ozone layer – in Afghanistan, in August a series of intensive discussions were held with key national actors on issues like certifying technicians, and setting policy such as banning imports of HCFC-based equipment.

The Afghan government is planning to ban imports of HCFC-based equipment from 2018, after having held further consultations, to allow the country to meet the objectives of its 2030 Phase-Out Plan under the Montreal Protocol. It is also aware that under the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol it will have to phase-down its use of hydroflurocarbons (HFCs) – high-GWP substances that contribute to emissions but do not impact the ozone layer – by 85% by 2047.

The country, which has long been racked by conflict, currently consumes only 425 metric tonnes of HCFCs – a significantly smaller amount then neighbouring Iran, which consumes 5,000 metric tonnes – and Afghanistan is quickly reducing this small amount. It only signed up to the Montreal Protocol in 2004 but had managed to reduce its consumption of HCFCs by 10% by 2015.

“Under the Protocol the obligations are the same for Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan, so that means if Iran ratified in 1995, by 2015 they had to reduce their consumption by 10%. Afghanistan has been able to achieve in the first six to eight months what would have taken some countries two to three years,” said Andrew Scanlon, Country Head of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) office in Kabul and who was at the phase-out meetings in Kabul.

“Part of the reason for that is the fact the government is new, whereas in other established countries, ministries have been in competition with one another. Here because it is new it has been easier to have cooperation between ministries,” said Mostafa Zaher, director-general of the National Environmental Protection Agency.

NatRefs wanted, training needed

Some stakeholders also looking at leapfrogging HCFCs to natural refrigerants. “I have imported five large chiller systems from USA based [on] natural refrigerants this year,” said Aman Osman, a leading importer of RAC appliances in Afghanistan. “I care about my environment and I learnt that natural refrigerants will help us in maintaining [a] cleaner environment”.

Aman notes he needs training to make this possible. “But I need engineers who can design better and efficient [air-conditioning] systems for large buildings where these chillers will be installed. I need trained and licensed technicians to handle these new gases,” he said.

The Montreal Protocol’s Multilateral Fund for phasing out ODPs, implemented by UNEP and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), has provided approximately US $1 million to help Afghanistan meet its phase-out targets.

A 10-month training program on refrigeration practices began last year, with help from UNEP. Once these technicians have been trained, Afghanistan will be able to replace or retrofit existing units, safely remove hazardous gases, and store the HCFCs.

The Afghan-Korea Vocational Institute in Kabul will train technicians under the UNEP project.

Within the next 12 months, the Institute will also receive UNIDO-approved equipment – allowing them to deal with flammable refrigerants. “The equipment will strengthen the Institute’s capability to train local technicians in good practices for handling new technologies that are already entering the Afghan market,” said Mohammadi Alireza, UNIDO’s international consultant in Afghanistan.