By: Ecosystem Marketplace’s Allie Goldstein

Markets are a powerful tool for incentivizing and rewarding greenhouse-gas reductions, but the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) says they no longer add value to the effort to eliminate one of the world’s most powerful heat-trapping compounds.

In light of promising developments to limit hydrofluorocarbons (HFC) under international law, VCS announced on Thursday that it will no longer recognize credits from projects that destroy HFC-23. The decision reflects VCS’s desire to keep its carbon-market carrot out of the way of the (in this case) more powerful regulatory stick.

“It comes down to an issue of what’s the right tool at the right time,” David Antonioli, VCS’s Chief Executive Officer said. “Clearly markets are an incredibly important tool. But they might not be the right tool for everything all the time. In this particular case, for HFC-23, the regulations are probably a more effective and direct way of reducing those emissions.”

Those regulations have been moving forward swiftly over the last several months. In April, the United States, Canada, and Mexicoproposed an amendment to the 1989 Montreal Protocol that calls for a phase down of HFCs, reducing them 85-90% by 2050 (Micronesia proposed a similar measure). Then, a bilateral meeting between U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping in June set the stage for the G20 Summit in St. Petersburg in September where the world’s most powerful economies agreed to phase down the production and consumption of HFCs, committing to further discussions on cost and technological alternatives.

HFCs are a problem born out of a solution: industry began producing them after the Montreal Protocol limited chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrochlorofuorocarbons (HCFCs), which were responsible for the ozone hole over Antarctica. HFCs are an ozone-friendly replacement for the chlorine-laden compounds that were once used ubiquitously in refrigerators, air conditioners, and spray cans. The phase-out of CFCs stopped the dangerous trend of ozone depletion and, because CFCs are also greenhouse gases (GHGs), recent research shows that cutting them out of household products may have spared the world from what could have been even more rapid climate change over the last several decades.
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