Delegates convening at the 35th Meeting of the Parties (MOP) to the United Nations’ Montreal Protocol in Nairobi, Kenya, agreed to mandate the investigation of the risk of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) to the three scientific panels supporting the decision making of the Protocol.
The three scientific panels, the Scientific Assessment Panel (SAP), the Environmental Effects Assessment Panel (EEAP) and the Technology and Economic Assessment Panel (TEAP), are scientific bodies informing the decisions of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol. They will need to analyse the risk related to PFAS, including trifluoroacetic acid (TFA), and their relation to the implementation of this legally binding agreement.
This decision is UNEP/OzL.Pro.35/CRP.11. The decisions adopted at the end of the week can be found at this link once the Ozone Secretariat uploads them.
Commenting on the decision, Thomas Trevisan, Deputy Manager for Public Affairs – Ozone, Climate, Energy and Chemicals at ATMOsphere, said, “This decision places the issue of PFAS front and centre to the Montreal Protocol work, which cover fluorinated gases used as refrigerants in RACHP equipment. Not only controlled substances such as HFCs will need to be assessed in relation to PFAS, but also halogenated alternatives such as HFOs. Delegates from around the world are increasingly paying attention to the risks related to the continued use of these substances.”
Following the update of the PFAS definition by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in 2021, many fluorinated refrigerants, both HFCs and HFOs, have fallen under the scope of actions related to the management of these substances. For instance, the European Union is taking action on this issue by proposing a blanket ban, providing derogations where alternatives are considered not available. This action would tackle multiple fluorinated refrigerants, as well as one of their degradation products, trifluoroacetic acid (TFA), whose accumulation in the environment is increasing around the world.
ATMOsphere, publisher of this media outlet, organised in July in Bangkok an event related to the European Restriction Proposal on PFAS with the Norwegian Environment Agency and the Germany-based consultancy Öko-Recherche. The event explained to delegates and observers attending the 45th Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG 45) to the United Nations Montreal Protocol the measures taken in the proposal. At MOP35, in Nairobi, Kenya, ATMOsphere organised another side event to inform policymakers on the risks to rely on persistent substances, calling for the application of the precautionary principle and the continue monitoring of these substances and their precursors. The slides presented can be found here selecting the date of October 25.
According to the decision reached by the Parties, the EEAP will have to “to assess the effects and accumulation of breakdown products from controlled substances and their alternatives, in particular any substances that are very persistent in the environment, such as perfluoro- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, including trifluoroacetic acid, in ground and surface waters and in other relevant sinks.”
The SAP, instead, will need to provide parties with “[E]arly identification and quantification of any substances that could be of concern to the ozone layer … in particular those with high global warming potential, breakdown products of controlled substances and their alternatives that are very persistent, such as perfluoro- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, including trifluoroacetic acid”.
The TEAP will need to assess and evaluate the “potential impacts of evolving policies and regulations in relation to the management of controlled substances, and their alternatives and breakdown products, in particular per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, on the implementation of the Montreal Protocol and the selection of alternatives in relevant sectors”.