Budget deficits jeopardize phase-out of harmful refrigerant gases
A SMALL group of policy-makers meeting in Montreal this week will decide if up to nine billion tonnes of carbon dioxide-equivalent emissions (Gt CO2e) could be prevented by accelerating the phase-out of refrigerant gases called HCFCs as agreed in 2007.
To put this in context, approximately eight billion tonnes of Gt CO2e will be prevented by the Kyoto Protocol.
Money is the crux of the problem, with donor countries under pressure to ensure tight budget limitations are met. The Montreal Protocol’s Multilateral Fund Secretariat has highlighted significant budget deficits, amounting to more than $220m from 2009-2011
According to the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), this shortfall could jeopardize the HCFC phase-out, agreed at the Montreal Protocol meeting in 2007, Additionally, it could force countries to replace HCFCs with the equally potent greenhouse gases known as HFCs rather than transitioning directly to climate-friendly alternatives.
“It’s madness for countries to shell out billions for expensive carbon offsets and then refuse to provide the small sums that could eliminate HCFCs and prevent the transition to HFCs,” said EIA’s Mark Roberts. “It’s not like the chance to eliminate an entire class of greenhouse gases comes along every day.”
The Montreal Protocol’s Executive Committee meets three times a year to discuss how to allocate funding to developing countries so they can meet commitments under the Protocol. As HCFCs are both potent global warming and ozone-depleting gases, their early phase-out has significant potential to help restore the ozone layer and delay climate change.
Of particular concern is a proposal by Croatia to convert 95 per cent of its HCFC-based equipment over to HFCs, ‘super’ greenhouse gases controlled by the Kyoto Protocol. EIA and others say this would be a missed opportunity to adopt climate-friendly refrigeration in Croatia and that a failure to do so would be a penny-wise, pound-foolish approach which makes no economic or environmental sense.
As a possible EU accession country, Croatia needs to rapidly curtail its use of HCFCs to comply with more stringent European regulations. However, a decision to convert to HFCs rather than to climate-friendly refrigerants will lead to higher costs in the future as EU regulations tighten further to reduce HFC emissions.
In contrast, a proposal from a Chinese factory requests funding to leapfrog HFC technology in order to develop a range of HFC-free air-conditioners and compressors. It is estimated that the project could save in excess of 250,000 tonnes of CO2e annually.
“This proposal demonstrates that it is within the Montreal Protocol’s grasp to achieve the substantial climate savings promised in 2007,” stated Janos Mate, Senior Consultant to Greenpeace International. “It’s up to the Executive Committee to ensure they honour this promise.”
Roberts added: “If donor nations make the modest contributions required to skip over HFCs, it could be the biggest climate breakthrough in history. It makes better sense financially to prevent the uptake of HFCs than to eliminate them once they’re in widespread use around the world.”
Interviews are available on request: please contact Mark Roberts at email@example.com or telephone +1 617 722 8222
1. The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) is a UK-based Non Governmental Organisation and charitable trust (registered charity number 1040615) that investigates and campaigns against a wide range of environmental crimes, including illegal wildlife trade, illegal logging, hazardous waste, and trade in climate and ozone-altering chemicals.
2. Through the phase-out of CFCs, the Montreal Protocol has so far led to greenhouse gas emissions reductions equating to more than 5GtCO2e per year at a cost of just US $0.03 per tonne.
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