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Progress in Paris to Phase Down Super Greenhouse Pollutants


Path forward to eliminate HFCs, major climate pollutant

Parties to the Montreal Protocol continued to make progress in their negotiations to phase down production and consumption of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), used primarily as refrigerants and to make insulating foams, opening a path to avoid the equivalent of up to 200 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions from these fast-growing greenhouse gases by 2050, and to avoid 0.5°C of warming by 2100.

“We turned a corner in Paris with China and India indicating their willingness to consider how to move forward to discuss the proposed HFC phase down”, said Durwood Zaelke, President of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development. “The world’s two biggest countries have moved onto the winning team, and this means that the HFC amendment is now inevitable. India’s Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar brought new ideas and new energy to the meeting, and will clearly be one of the leaders going forward next year on the HFC amendment.”

A unique collection of countries representing a majority of the world population and HFC consumers and producers, including China, India, Brazil, and South Africa, along with the European Union and the United States, have called for fast action to cut production and use of HFCs, the fastest growing greenhouse gas in the world, using the institutions and expertise of the Montreal Protocol, while leaving accounting and reporting of emissions within the UN climate treaty. In total, more than 120 countries have called for action to phase down HFCs.

Noting the September 30th agreement between President Obama and Prime Minister Modi of India to cooperate on the phase down of HFCs under the Montreal Protocol, India’s Environment Minister Javadekar called for clear roles for developed and developing countries, with different phase down schedules.

A late-night effort by the United States to provide a path forward next year stalled when a few countries objected that they did not have enough time to study the US proposal. India proposed further constructive changes, but the chair ruled that time had run out a minute before midnight.

Nevertheless, a critical agreement was reached when the Parties agreed to replenish the Multilateral Fund with $507.5 million over the next three years, a record amount that reassured the developing countries that the full agreed incremental costs would be paid for the current phase down of HCFCs. The Multilateral Fund is the Montreal Protocol’s dedicated funding mechanism, which pays the agreed incremental costs for developing country parties to move to the climate friendly substitutes. The Multilateral Fund has provided more than $3 billion to date to support the phase down of nearly 100 chemicals that damage the stratospheric ozone layer and warm the climate, by nearly 100%.

The success of the Montreal Protocol has put the stratospheric ozone layer on the path of recovery by 2065, and provided climate mitigation equivalent to a net of 135 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide, which is five to ten times more than the Kyoto Protocol climate treaty has provided to date.

Phasing down HFCs will provide the equivalent of up to 146 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide by 2050, and avoid up to 0.5°C of warming by 2100. A fast phase down by 2020 will provide additional mitigation, equivalent to up to 64 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide. “This is the only climate strategy where all the major countries of the world are lining up on the same side,” said Durwood Zaelke. “As Segolene Royal, the French Environment Minister, said in her opening remarks this week, the road to a successful climate treaty in Paris next December runs through Montreal—although we’re running out of time to get the job done.”

IGSD’s Primer on HFCs is here.