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Japan to start helping Thailand collect greenhouse gas HCFCs next year

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres appears on screens when delivering a speech during the opening of the COP24 UN Climate Change Conference 2018 in Katowice, Poland, Monday, Dec. 3, 2018. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

KATOWICE, Poland -- The Environment Ministry will start supporting Thailand next year to collect greenhouse gases called hydro-chlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) used as coolants in air conditioners and refrigerators, according to ministry officials.

The project is part of the ministry's initiative to help other countries collect or neutralize the highly warming gas and thus win credit for greenhouse gas reductions through a joint crediting mechanism (JCM).

HCFCs were introduced in the 1980s to substitute chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) that were seen as destroying the Earth's ozone layer blocking ultraviolet rays from the sun and increasing the risk of skin cancer. But some HCFCs have an extremely high capacity to trap heat in the Earth's atmosphere, reaching 10,000 times that of carbon dioxide.

This has prompted the international community to revise the Montreal Protocol for ozone layer protection and regulate HCFCs' production, and incorporate its reduction as one of the important goals of the Paris Agreement to fight global warming.

CFC substitutes are collected in Japan from electric appliances that use them, but the gases are released into the environment in developing countries.

Under the Environment Ministry's plan, a Japanese company with HCFC collection and neutralization capabilities will collect the gases from car air conditioners around the Thai capital of Bangkok, and burn them at local facilities to render them harmless.

This operation is estimated to neutralize as much as 12 metric tons of HCFCs annually. A ministry official said the government wants to make the project a symbolic case of international cooperation. "We want to actively contribute to countries overseas by using Japanese technology," the official said. The ministry is also in consultations with Vietnamese officials about the possibility of similar cooperation.

The HCFC collection initiative will be announced by Environment Minister Yoshiaki Harada at the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24).

(Japanese original by Kazuhiro Igarashi, Environment & Science News Department)

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