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Africa Demands Cuts in Climate-Damaging Refrigerants


Emerges as leader of effort launched first by Island States

US, Europe support using Montreal Protocol to fight climate pollution

Bangkok, 24 April 2015 - Parties to the Montreal Protocol agreed today to inter-sessional meetings to ensure a path to finalizing an amendment this November to cut hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs.  These chemicals were previously favored as coolants in air conditioners, but are now recognized as one of the world’s most dangerous climate pollutants.  Today’s agreement was reached during a week when heat sored to nearly 40°C in Bangkok, and demand for electricity broke records as people cranked up their air conditioners to keep cool.

HFCs are the fastest growing climate pollutant, and cutting them can avoid the equivalent of up to 100 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide by mid-century, and avoid up to 0.5°C by century’s end.  “The Montreal Protocol can deliver the biggest, fastest, and probably the cheapest climate protection available to the world in the near term,” said Durwood Zaelke, President of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development. “The Montreal Protocol has already phased out nearly 100 similar chemicals by nearly 100%, has all UN countries participating, and is widely recognized as the world’s most successful environmental treaty.”

Senegal, on behalf of the 54 countries of Africa, emerged as the new leader calling for an immediate start to the formal negotiations to cut the HFCs.  The continent of Africa is warming at one and a half times the global rate, and already suffering devastating droughts and other climate induced impacts.

India also switched its previous opposition and for the first time presented a formal proposal to cut HFCs.  This followed an agreement earlier this year between President Obama and Prime Minister Modi.  The US, Mexico, and Canada re-submitted their proposal to cut HFCs under the Montreal Protocol, as they have done for the past six years.  Other proposals are expected from the Federated States of Micronesia, the island country that first proposed using the Montreal Protocol to cut HFCs.  The EU also indicated that it will be submitting its own HFC proposal.

A small group of Gulf countries initially objected to starting formal negotiations, repeating a series of questions that most countries were confident had been answered sufficiently over the previous six years of discussions about cutting HFCs. In the end, the Gulf countries were forced to compromise and agreed to pursue inter-sessional meetings to set the terms for the formal negotiations, which are expected to start in Paris in late July and conclude at the Meeting of the Parties in early November in UAE.

“Thanks to the African group, the table is now set for success this year,” said Zaelke.  “Senegal and its allies in Africa demonstrated the skill and courage needed finish the HFC amendment.” He added, “The headline will be ‘World Eliminated Climate Damage from One of Six Main Climate Pollutants.’ Success will provide a powerful boost to the parallel UN climate negotiations scheduled to conclude in Paris in December, as well as critical near-term protection.”  Any climate agreement in Paris will not take effect until 2020.

Air conditioners using HFCs as coolants also contribute to climate change from the electricity they use, when it is generated by coal, oil, natural gas, or wood, as is most often the case.  Some air conditioners use much more electricity than others, and cutting out the inefficiencies can reduce electricity use by 40 to 50%.  This reduces emissions of carbon dioxide and other air pollutants, and cuts the consumer’s operating cost.

According to new analysis presented earlier in the week by Dr. Nihar Shah of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, countries can double their contribution to climate protection by improving the efficiency of air conditioners when they cut their use of HFCs. In India, for example, requiring energy efficient air conditioning can save enough energy to avoid building 120 medium-sized power plants in the next 15 years, at a savings estimated at $60 billion in capital costs.

Some countries are already including the HFC cuts in their “intended nationally determined contributions” to climate protection under the UN process that is aiming for a separate climate agreement in Paris in December.