Why we need to ditch HFCs on the road to Marrakech

An impressive 177 countries have now signed the Paris climate deal. The first post-Paris meeting wrapped up recently in Bonn and today we look at the next steps and what countries need to do to turn the Paris agreement into a climate success story..

ice fall_image courtesy of Len Radin Flickr_Creative Commons

image courtesy of Len Radin, Flickr Creative Commons

In a note issued before the Bonn meeting, the secretariat of the climate convention shared its views on preparing for the Paris deal to be put into practice. Support for early ratification seems to be growing, with both the US and China making efforts towards ratifying the deal in 2016, earlier than previously estimated. There’s a sense that the fruitful atmosphere of multilateral cooperation that gave birth to the agreement back in December needs to be preserved and enhanced in the next few years if we want to see more than just displays of high-level diplomacy.

No major rifts surfaced at Bonn but there are concerns as to how to best to devise a rulebook for the implementation of the deal, especially in the grey areas where the text of the agreement provides little clarity. Such rules would look at how to track progress of countries’ national contribution implementation, the differentiation between developed and developing countries’ climate action efforts and identifying ways to scale up efforts to enhance pre-2020 mitigation actions from both state and non-state actors.

The Ad-hoc Working Group to the Paris Agreement (APA) concluded its first session and called for parties’ views to be submitted before the next discussions at CoP22 in Marrakech from November 7-18, 2016.

Air-con units in Hong Kong by DL5MDA

Air-con units in Hong Kong by DL5MDA

No time to waste

In Bonn, a stark new assessment showed we may have as few as five years at current global emission levels before the theory that we can limit warming to a 1.5°C increase goes bust. That is pretty startling and clearly shows the need for world governments to increase their emission targets. The current nationally determined contributions (INDCs) that lie at the heart of the Paris agreement put us on a path for a 3°C warming; if nothing comes to mind when thinking about how the world might look like under this scenario, these pictures paint a pretty conclusive story.

Alongside the work to make the Paris deal enforceable, efforts need to be channelled towards enhancing the emission targets in time for the 2018 stocktake of collective climate efforts, but there seems little appetite for that. So far, Argentina is the only country to publically state that it is looking at ways to increase ambition beyond its current climate plan.

Rapid action on HFCs can help deliver the Paris promise

To ensure that governments can deliver on their Paris promises, it is imperative that all polluting sectors do their share of bringing down emission levels. For the rest of the year, all eyes will be on the Montreal Protocol and the ongoing negotiations to phase down the consumption and production of HFCs. Hopes are high after the Dubai pathway on HFCs emerged from the 2015 Meeting of the Parties, mandating a series of extra meetings in order to agree a 2016 amendment to the Protocol.

The potential for climate mitigation of HFCs is massive: 100 billion tonnes of CO2e can be avoided by 2050 with additional mitigation achievable through improving the energy efficiency of the technologies that rely on HFCs.

HFCs are short-lived climate forcers with a relatively brief atmospheric lifetime but very high global warming potential, so aggressive cuts in HFC consumption and production in the next few years will greatly maximise the potential for climate mitigation.

Parties to the Montreal Protocol will meet in Vienna next month to resume talks on the Dubai pathway and pave the way for a full blown amendment to be agreed in October in Kigali.

During a briefing with observer organisations last week in Bonn, Jonathan Pershing, US special envoy on climate change, acknowledged the important role HFCs have in complementing the goals of the Paris Agreement. He stressed that an ambitious amendment must be concluded this year and that the current US administration is making all efforts domestically and internationally toward reaping as many climate benefits as possible from a Montreal Protocol phasedown amendment.

This comes alongside European efforts to clamp down on HFCs through the EU F-Gas Regulation, as well as other national policies in place around the world. All of these efforts now need a global regulatory regime to kick the HFC can down the road!