DENPASAR, BALI: Despite a call from 108 countries for the Montreal Protocol to pursue a phase-out of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), political manoeuvring in advance of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) climate negotiations have prevented any action or formal discussion on how the potent class of greenhouse gases (GHG) could be eliminated.
India, China and Brazil thwarted the will of the majority of the 124 countries gathered in Bali this week for the Montreal Protocol’s 23rd Meeting of Parties, claiming that action on HFCs can only occur under the auspices of next week’s climate talks in Durban – talks expected to produce no agreement on any action to address HFCs.
HFCs are powerful global warming agents being commercialised to replace the ozone-depleting substances (ODS) being phased out under the Montreal Protocol. Although most nations have acknowledged the growing danger HFCs pose to climate change, and the responsibility the Montreal Protocol bears for their increased use as ODS replacements, opposition by a handful of nations is preventing action by the ozone treaty to phase-out HFCs as it has successfully done with chemicals which destroy the ozone layer.
This was the third year HFC Amendment proposals were tabled by Micronesia and North American countries to begin formal discussions of a global HFC phase-out, and the third year Brazil, China and India have refused to even allow formal discussion.
The Montreal Protocol is widely regarded as the world’s most successful environmental treaty, having arrested and reversed the destruction of the ozone layer and also delayed the onset of acute global warming by at least a decade (ODS gases are also powerful greenhouse gases).
“The global response to climate change simply does not have time for advancing self-serving national interests,” said Mark Roberts, International Policy Advisor for the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA). “If not arrested, the increase in use of HFCs could be fatal to all other efforts to arrest climate change.”
A recent report by the International Energy Agency indicates that the window of opportunity for reducing GHGs and avoiding catastrophic and irreversible climate change is almost closed. HFCs have global warming potentials hundreds to thousands of times greater than CO2 and are primarily used in refrigeration and air-conditioning. HFCs are the fastest growing source of GHG emissions and could account for almost 20 per cent of global GHG emissions by 2050 under a business-as-usual scenario. Currently, low-GWP alternatives are available for most HFC applications and a global phase-out of HFCs could be accomplished through the Montreal Protocol at a cost of approximately €5.28-11.33 billion (US$7-15 billion).
Clare Perry, EIA Senior Campaigner, said: “The UNFCCC process simply will not address HFCs any time in the near future, and even if they did, they would not be able to phase-out HFCs as quickly, efficiently and cost-effectively as the Montreal Protocol. If there was ever a time for the world’s most successful environmental treaty to expand its efforts, that time is now.”
More information and EIA reports on HFC-23, the CDM, Montreal Protocol and related issues can be found here.
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1. The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) investigates and campaigns against environmental crime and abuses.
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