CFC ban a hard call due to lack of alternatives

Adianto P. Simamora, The Jakarta Post

While you sit in your cool office, shielded from the tropical heat, your air conditioner is burning through a chemical regarded as one of the biggest culprits in the depletion of the ozone layer.

Chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, have been banned in many countries around the world, a lead the Jakarta administration is yet to follow — despite the fact that Jakartans’ usage of CFCs make up 60 percent of that of the national level, an official said.

Deputy chairman of the administration’s team on ozone protection Daniel Abbas admitted that his office was facing difficulties in forcing businesses to stop using CFCs due to the lack of alternatives.

“The State Ministry of the Environment informs us that Jakarta is the main user of ozone-depleting substances. But we can’t force businesses to stop it unless there are alternative substances,” he told The Jakarta Post.

He said that the ministry’s claim was reasonable since most households and buildings in Jakarta were equipped with air conditioners, in addition to the millions of food transportation trucks that also use air conditioners around the country.

CFCs, which are also used in refrigerators, foam production, fire extinguishers, aerosols and solvents, are the main destroyers of the ozone layer, which blocks out the sun’s deadly ultraviolet rays.

They are mainly imported from India and China and are more popular here than more ozone-friendly hydroflurocarbons because they are less expensive.

The ministry has estimated that around 4,000 tons of CFCs are illegally traded every year, 10 times the country’s annual quota of 400 metric tons.

Indonesia ratified the Vienna Convention and Montreal Protocol on Ozone Layer Protection in 1992, obliging it to phase out the use of ozone-depleting substances.

The protocol requires Indonesia to stop importing CFCs by December this year.

The administration issued a gubernatorial decree last year establishing a working team to protect the ozone layer and end the use of ozone-depleting substances.

Daniel said that the environment ministry had supplied 198 CFC recycling machines to Jakarta auto workshops.

The machines, which are worth Rp 35 million each, recover, recycle and recharge CFCs produced by car air conditioners.

“However, many of the machines are now inoperable since there are no technicians that know how to repair them,” he said.

He said that the administration was currently looking to identify ozone-depleting substance use in the city.

“We have signed an agreement with a non-government organization to monitor the use of ozone-depleting substances,” he said.

The depletion of the ozone layer, which is located in the stratosphere, between 15 and 60 kilometers up, can have serious health affects, increasing skin cancer and cataract rates in both humans and animals, as well as damaging marine ecosystems.

Widespread use of CFCs around much of the world throughout the 20th century led to a large hole developing in the ozone layer above Australia, Antarctica and the South Pacific. Australia now has the highest skin cancer rate in the world.

The Indonesian government has said that between 1995 and 2004, 7,119 tons of ozone-depleting substances, mainly CFCs, were phased out.

Indonesia has received millions of dollars from multilateral donors to fund the phase-out, which also includes a deadline on the use of hydrofluorocarbons.

By 2040, the more ozone-friendly substance will not be used here any more, with an even safer alternative chemical to replace it.

Meanwhile, Industry Minister Fahmi Idris said Tuesday that his office had issued an ordinance banning industries from using ozone-deflating substances as raw materials.

“We will withdraw the business permits of industries that did not comply with the regulation,” he was quoted by Antara as saying.

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