Home » Press Releases » Sea Change in Support for Reducing HFCs Under Montreal Protocol

Sea Change in Support for Reducing HFCs Under Montreal Protocol


Presidential leadership remains key to victory this year

Bangkok, 28 June 2013 – Parties to the Montreal Protocol this week took a major step forward in considering action to reduce the production and consumption of hydrofluorocarbons, the super-greenhouse gases known as HFCs. At their mid-year working group meeting in Bangkok, Thailand, which ended today, the Parties established a formal Discussion Group to address the management of HFCs under the Protocol. Two proposals to amend the Protocol to phase down HFCs, one by the Federated States of Micronesia, Morocco and the Maldives, and another by the United States, Canada and Mexico, were the subject of robust discussion in the plenary meeting before the Co-Chairs decided to move forward with the formal group.

“We’ve moved from whether to how,” said Durwood Zaelke, President of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development. “This is a big step forward. Parties that in previous years objected to addressing HFCs — even to having HFCs on the agenda—are now suggesting how these super greenhouse gases can be managed under the Protocol.”

The marked shift in parties’ disposition toward addressing HFCs under the Protocol follows recent elevation of the issue to the highest political levels. Earlier this month U.S. President Barack Obama of Chinese President Xi Jinping concluded an agreement to utilize the institutions and expertise of the Montreal Protocol to phase down the production and consumption of HFCs. The U.S.-China announcement took place at the mid-point of climate treaty negotiations in Bonn, Germany where discussions of phasing down HFCs under the Montreal Protocol were also emerging as a recurring theme of those talks. Tuesday U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Indian Prime Minister Manhoman Singh met to discuss climate and energy cooperation, with approaches to address HFCs among the key topics considered.

“The change in attitudes from the BRICS is especially striking,” said Ambassador Asterio Takesy from Micronesia. “First, Russia announced its support last month. Then China announced its agreement with the U.S. three weeks ago. Now we see Brazil, South Africa and even India suggesting steps and criteria for possible management of HFCs by the Montreal Protocol. These developments are exciting and at last augur well for immediate action on climate change.”

Takesy was referring to the Kiruna Declaration of the Arctic Council signed by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in May calling upon Parties to the Montreal Protocol to “take action as soon as possible” to “phase-down the production and consumption of hydrofluorocarbons.”

Abderrahim Chakour, Division Chief, Ministry of Business and New Technologies of Morocco, explained the shift. “We feel that part of the reason for the changing views is the recognition that reducing the amount of HFCs that is made is more effective than trying to control emissions from millions of sources,” he said.

President Obama made HFC reductions a prominent part of the Climate Action Plan that he announced this week, with strategies for fast reductions of HFCs in the U.S., as well as high-level support for the HFC amendment under the Montreal Protocol. “Even with the tremendous progress we’ve made the past six months, continuing leadership from President Obama and President Xi and other heads of government will be needed for a climate victory under the Montreal Protocol this year,” said Zaelke.

A study published this week in Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics calculates that replacing HFCs with climate friendly alternatives can avoid up to 0.5°C of warming by 2100, strengthening support for phasing down HFCs as an urgent priority. For context, current warming is about 0.8°C above pre-Industrial levels.

The study in Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics is here.

President Obama’s climate action plan is here; the Obama-Xi HFC agreement is here.