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Global Leaders Call for Action on Super Greenhouse Gas as Ozone Treaty Celebrates 25th Anniversary


Geneva, 12 November 2012 – Global environmental leaders, gathered in Geneva yesterday to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the ozone treaty, consistently identified a phase-down of super greenhouse gases called HFCs as the number one priority of the treaty as it moves forward. The celebration precedes the Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol, where pressure is mounting for adoption of an amendment to phase down HFCs with high global warming potential. This would provide significant climate mitigation – up to 146 billion tonnes of CO2-equivalent reductions by 2050—compared to 5 to 10 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent from the Kyoto Protocol’s first commitment period.

Nobel Laureate Mario Molina urged participants to move forward on a phase-down of HFCs under the Protocol, stating, “If we do it cleverly, we can solve both the ozone and climate problems simultaneously.”

HFCs are factory-made chemicals used in refrigeration, air conditioning, insulating foams, and other uses. HFCs are the fastest growing greenhouse gas in the U.S. and many other countries, due to the growing demand for air conditioning in a warming world and the ongoing phase-out of the current refrigerant, hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), under the Montreal Protocol. At the Geneva celebration, NOAA Senior Scientist Dr. A.R. Ravishankara, emphasized the importance of addressing HFC, explaining that otherwise, “HFCs could be as much as 20% of CO2 emissions by 2020.”

The Montreal Protocol is already responsible for the global phase-out of 97% of the consumption and production of nearly 100 ozone-depleting substances and has set the stratospheric ozone layer on the path to mid-century recovery, while also providing critical climate mitigation.

Political momentum for amending the Protocol to address HFCs is steadily growing. 108 parties have signed the Bangkok Declaration calling for low-GWP alternatives to CFCs and HCFCs. And at the Rio+20 meeting in June of this year, more than one hundred heads of State called for the gradual phase-down of HFC production and consumption in the conference declaration, The Future We Want.

The European Commission is already taking concrete policy action on HFCs, issuing a proposal this week to phase down HFCs in the European Union. Climate Commissioner, Connie Hedegaard, encouraged participants to address HFCs and not to “miss the opportunity to close the ambition gap in the climate talks.”

“Phasing down HFCs under the Montreal Protocol—the world’s best environmental treaty—will provide the biggest, fastest, and probably the cheapest climate mitigation available to the world today,” said Durwood Zaelke, President of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development, who attended the seminar.

Dr. Stephen O. Andersen, Director of Research for IGSD, received a special award from the government of the Russian Federation “For his eminent individual contribution to co-operation between the USSR/the Russian Federation and the United States of America in the field of protection of the Earth’s Ozone Layer.” This cooperation included negotiating a successful agreement to launch a U.S. Total Ozone Mapping Spectrometer (TOMS) on a Russian Meteor-3 satellite aboard a Russian Cyclone rocket. This was the first flight of a U.S. scientific instrument on a Soviet spacecraft. The TOMS mapped in detail global ozone distribution as well as the Antarctic "ozone hole." Dr. Andersen also organized international technology cooperation on eliminating the use of ozone-depleting chemicals in aerospace and fire protection applications.

This is the first time this prestigious award has ever been given to someone who is not a Russian citizen.

The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) was one of the original signatories of the Montreal Protocol on September 16, 1987 and one of the counties that ratified the treaty before it entered into force. They provided significant scientific and diplomatic leadership in reaching the original agreement and in strengthening the Montreal Protocol through adjustments and amendments to protect the stratospheric ozone layer and climate.

The Rio+20 conference declaration is here. The European Union f-gas proposal is here.

An Op-Ed on the Montreal Protocol by Mario Molina & Durwood Zaelke is here. The NGO statement on the 25th Anniversary of the Protocol is here.

Additional information on TOMS is here.