Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development

Press Alert: Countries Planning HFC Phase Down at Geneva Montreal Protocol Meetings Next Week

31 March 2016 – Representatives of the 197 countries arrive in Geneva next Monday for the first major initiative to protect the world’s climate since the historic Paris agreement last December.  The Parties to the Montreal Protocol ozone treaty are meeting to finalize plans for a global phase down of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), the highly potent greenhouse gases used in refrigeration and air conditioning.  This follows the countries’ agreement in Dubai last November to work to an amendment to address HFCs in 2016, as part of the world’s broader plan to slow climate change this year.

HFC emissions are the world’s fastest growing greenhouse gas emissions, as an increasing number of consumers are able to afford modern cooling appliances in a warming planet.  Avoiding a rapid growth of HFCs over the next several decades is one of the fastest actions that can be taken against climate change: it can prevent emissions equivalent to over 100 billion tons of carbon dioxide, and can avoid warming of up to 0.5C by the end of the century.  This will be essential if countries are to achieve the goal in the Paris climate agreement of limiting long-term warming to well below 2C, aiming for 1.5C and net zero emissions by mid-century.

These points have just been highlighted by Chrisitana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN climate negotiations and Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme in the joint article, “Fast-Tracking Climate Action”, last week. They stress the importance of acting fast to achieve agreed climate and development goals and emphasize that by “harvesting fresh momentum on HFCs under sister agreements like Montreal and a growing array of cooperative coalitions, we can avoid disaster and ensure long-term economic development.”

The meeting is the first step in maintaining global momentum on climate action after the breakthrough in Paris, a primary objective of the international community this year.  Governments will next go to New York on 22 April for a signing ceremony for the Paris Agreement, which will be followed by further UNFCCC meetings in Bonn 16 to 26 May, and the UN’s Environmental Assembly in Nairobi 23 to 27 May.

“The threat has been recognized and the goals have been set,” said Durwood Zaelke, President of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development, which has been actively promoting urgent action on climate change in both the UNFCCC and Montreal Protocol.  “Now is the time to agree on concrete actions.  This is what countries will be doing on HFCs in Geneva, before signing off on that plan at a ministerial level meeting in Vienna in July.”

Today the U.S. and China reiterated their pledge to work towards a 2016 HFC amendment, pursuant to the Dubai Pathway.  This followed yesterday’s U.S. EPA proposed new rules to expand the list of approved climate friendly HFC alternatives and to prohibit the use of various high-global warming potential HFCs previously listed as acceptable.  EPA’s proposal – which will avoid up to 11 million metric tones tons of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2030 – provides further support for an HFC amendment under the Montreal Protocol this year.

The 37th meeting of the Open-Ended Working Group of the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer will take place at the Centre International de Conférences Genève (CICG) from 4 to 8 April 2016. 

An extraordinary Meeting of Parties will be held in Vienna on the 22 to 23 July, following another working group meeting 18 to 21 July.  The HFC amendment could be concluded here.  There also will be a regular Meeting of the Parties in October in Rwanda.

For further information, see IGSD’s HFC Primer.