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Island States Urge Fast Climate Mitigation Under Montreal Protocol


8 countries co-sponsor amendment to phase down potent greenhouse gas

1 May 2015 – Today eight Pacific Island States submitted a formal proposal to amend the Montreal Protocol Ozone Treaty to phase down hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), the manmade greenhouse gases used in refrigerators and air conditioners.  Led by the Federated States of Micronesia, which along with Mauritius was the first country to propose reducing HFCs under the Montreal Protocol in 2009, the group of amendment co-sponsors this year includes Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Palau, the Philippines, Samoa and Solomon Islands.  The islands are urging fast climate protection to slow temperature and sea-level rise, and to reduce the intensity of storm surges and typhoons.

“Cutting HFCs, can reduce sea-level rise faster than any other strategy by avoiding the equivalent of up to 100 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide by mid-century, and up to 0.5°C by the end of the century,” said Durwood Zaelke, President of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development. “The island States recognize that the HFC amendment is the world’s best near-term plan to slow climate change, making it a top priority for many countries already suffering climate impacts.”  In early April FSM was hit by category five, super-typhoon Maysak, leaving thousands displaced. In 2013, one of the strongest typhoons ever recorded, Yolanda, hit the Philippines killing more than 6,300.

“There is no way the world can achieve its agreed temperature stabilization goals if HFCs alone contribute warming of a half a degree Celsius by the end of the century,” said Andrew Yatilman, Micronesia’s Director of Environment and Emergency Management. “HFCs could represent 10-15% of global climate forcing by mid-century.  We have the potential to take this projected forcing completely out of the system.” 

Achieving an early climate win in the Montreal Protocol at the November Meeting of the Parties in Dubai would also bode well for a global climate agreement expected to be finalized during negotiations in Paris in December, Yatilman said. “Locking in an agreement in Dubai to prevent billions of tons of emissions would be the perfect cornerstone for a broader climate agreement in Paris.”

Support for the amendment is rapidly increasing.  This year, India switched its previous opposition and for the first time presented a formal proposal to cut HFCs.  At the extraordinary Montreal Protocol meeting last month in Bangkok, the 54 countries of Africa called for an immediate start to formal negotiations to cut HFCs.

Reducing HFCs has been a priority on President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry’s climate agenda.  “It is essential that we get a buy-in on this,” John Kerry told the Washington Post last week, “because HFCs are one of the most dangerous greenhouse gases on Earth — far more damaging and potent that carbon dioxide.”  The U.S., Mexico and Canada re-submitted their proposal for the 6th year in a row.  The E.U. has also filed a formal amendment proposal for the first time.  Some countries have also included HFC cuts in their intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs) to climate protection under the UN process, which is aiming for a separate agreement in Paris in December.

Formal negotiations are expected to start at the next Montreal Protocol Open Ended Working Group in Paris this July, following further inter-sessional negotiating sessions agreed to last month in Bangkok.  The Montreal Protocol has already successfully phased out over 100 ozone-depleting substances, avoiding an equivalent of an estimated 9.5 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions per year. Fast implementation of the HFC amendment can add the equivalent of up to 64 billion tonnes of CO2 mitigation, and, according to a new analysis by Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, countries can double their contribution to climate protection by improving the efficiency of air conditioners when they cut use of HFCs.