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The global phasedown of hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants under the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol will make a crucial contribution to slowing climate change and meeting the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement. An even faster phasedown could be achieved with a more extensive replacement of high-GWP HFCs with commercially available low-GWP alternatives in refrigeration and air conditioning equipment. Climate emissions also can be reduced by collecting HFCs at the end of the useful life of cooling equipment and either recycling or destroying them. Such strategies could avoid up to 0.5°C of warming by 2100. 

This report is a comprehensive assessment of the climate and development benefits of efficient and climate-friendly cooling.

Chapter 25 in Health of People, Health of Planet and Our Responsibility: Climate Change, Air Pollution and Health (Al-Delaimy, W. K., Ramanathan, & V., Sorondo, M. S. eds). Springer, Cham. Pages 321-331.

Climate change is becoming an existential threat with warming in excess of 2 °C within the next three decades and 4–6 °C within the next several decades. Warming of such magnitudes will expose as many as 75% of the world’s population to deadly heat stress in addition to disrupting the climate and weather worldwide. Climate change is an urgent problem requiring urgent solutions. This chapter lays out urgent and practical solutions that are ready for implementation now, will deliver benefits in the next few critical decades, and place the world on a path to achieving the long-term targets of the Paris Agreement. The approach consists of four building blocks and three levers to implement ten scalable solutions described in this chapter. These solutions will enable society to decarbonize the global energy system by 2050 through efficiency and renewables, drastically reduce short-lived climate pollutants, and stabilize the warming well below 2 °C both in the near term (before 2050) and in the long term (after 2050). The solutions include an atmospheric carbon extraction lever to remove CO2 from the air. The amount of CO2 that must be removed ranges from negligible (if the emissions of CO2 from the energy system and short-lived climate pollutants have started to decrease by 2020 and carbon neutrality is achieved by 2050) to a staggering one trillion tons (if the carbon lever is not pulled and emissions of climate pollutants continue to increase until 2030).

The chapter covers fluorinated GHGs, namely hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). The Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project reports seek to reduce HFC and hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) emissions in the United States by 96 million metric tons (MMT) CO2 equivalent (CO2eq) by 2050. HFCs replaced chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and HCFCs that have been phased out under the Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer because they were depleting the stratospheric ozone layer. Due largely to their use as substitutes for CFCs and HCFCs, HFCs are the fastest growing GHGs in the United States, growing from 0.3 MMT CO2eq in 1990 to 149.4 MMT CO2eq in 2010. EPA, many states, and businesses have already begun acting to speed the phasedown of HFCs in the United States. There are a number of legal pathways at the fed- eral, state, and local levels that would further reduce emissions of HFCs and speed markets to a safe transition to environmentally friendly alternatives. Additional climate benefits can be realized by simultaneously improving the energy efficiency of equipment during the transition away from high-global warming potential (GWP) refrigerants.

This New Climate Economy Working Paper was written as a supporting document for the 2015 report of the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, Seizing the Global Opportunity: Partnerships for Better Growth and a Better Climate. It reflects the research conducted for Section 2.10 of the full report and is part of a series of 10 Working Papers. It reflects the recommendations made by the Global Commission- 1. Major companies should commit to phasing out HFCs through cost-effective cooperative action programmes such as those of the Consumer Goods Forum and Refrigerants, Naturally! 2. The Parties to the UNFCCC should also be encouraged to include an HFC phase-down in their “intended nationally determined contributions” (INDCs), and reporting on HFC emissions should be extended to all countries. 3. Incorporating HFC production and consumption into the Montreal Protocol would provide significant near-term gains to slow climate change, and could lead to avoiding 1.1–1.7 Gt CO2e of annual GHG emissions per year by 2030.

While negotiations continue for a United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) by December 2015 to take effect in 2020, a parallel effort to achieve fast climate mitigation is needed under the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (Montreal Protocol) to slow current impacts and reduce risks of passing tipping points that trigger self-amplifying feedback mechanisms that accelerate warming. Fast reductions of short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs), including black carbon (BC), methane (CH4), tropospheric ozone (TO3), and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), can cut the rate of climate change in half by mid-century and by two thirds in the Arctic. The Montreal Protocol can be used to quickly phase down production and consumption of high global warming potential (GWP) HFCs, which can avoid 0.1 °C of warming by 2050, and 0.5 °C by 2100, while catalyzing improvements in appliance energy efficiency, which will provide further climate change mitigation by reducing energy use and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, particularly in fast-growing economies like India and China. The simultaneous global deployment of existing technologies can reduce emissions of BC, CH4, and TO3by enough to avoid an additional 0.5 °C of warming by 2050, while providing immediate benefits for human health, agriculture, and sustainable development. Fast action to reduce the four SLCPs will reduce the risk of setting off irreversible feedback mechanisms and provide urgent optimism and momentum for a successful UN climate treaty in 2015.

Stratospheric ozone, global warming, and the principle of unintended consequences—An ongoing science and policy success story.

The level of ambition of the public and policy makers to protect the climate is currently far too low to slow the accelerating pace of climate impacts. Ambition can be strengthened using strategies that disaggregate the overall climate problem into manageable pieces, borrow existing laws and institutions to take fast action following a ‘start and strengthen’ approach. This is illustrated by the strategy to phase down the production and consumption of high global warming potential hydrofluorocarbons under the Montreal Protocol. Such an approach could cut the rate of global warming in half for the next several decades, and even more in the Arctic and other climate vulnerable regions. This can provide fast success and build the sense of urgent optimism needed to raise ambition to do more to address carbon dioxide emissions – the single largest contributor to climate change.