Discussion of Montreal Protocol proposals to phase out HFCs blocked
BANGKOK: For the fourth year in a row, Brazil, China and India have prevented formal talks at the Montreal Protocol on proposals to end global production and use of HFCs, some of the most powerful known greenhouse gases (GHGs).
Their positions at this week’s Montreal Protocol meeting of the Open-Ended Working Group were in direct contravention of language that all three nations agreed in last month’s Rio+20 Declaration that stated: “We recognize that the phase-out of ozone-depleting substances is resulting in a rapid increase in the use and release of high global-warming potential hydrofluorocarbons to the environment. We support a gradual phase-down in the consumption and production of hydrofluorocarbons.”
Amendment Proposals submitted to the Montreal Protocol by Micronesia, and by Canada, Mexico and the US to initiate an international phase-out of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) could prevent approximately 100 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent (GtsCO2e) emissions by 2050, equal to three years of global fossil fuel emissions. Despite the urgent need for mitigating GHG emissions following last year’s UNFCCC decision to delay implementation of a climate agreement until 2020, and the fact that Brazil was the Chair of the Rio+20 meeting, Brazil, China and India continue to insist that any action to address HFCs be undertaken by the UNFCCC. This insistence was made despite the fact that the UNFCCC has no experience with phasing out chemicals, deals exclusively with eliminating GHG emissions, and has no authority over the production and consumption of HFCs or any other greenhouse gases.
“The solution to the fastest growing class of GHG emissions is not a largely failed UNFCCC process that will not implement a global climate treaty until 2020,” said Samuel LaBudde of the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA). “Brazil, China and India are the three countries that have been most active in blocking progress on HFCs at the UNFCCC and are playing one Convention against the other at the expense of climate.”
HFCs are replacements for ozone-depleting substances (ODS) being phased out under the Montreal Protocol and are primarily used as coolants for refrigeration and air-conditioning. Rapid growth of HFCs is occurring mostly in developing countries and by 2050 projected global emissions could annually contribute up to one-fifth as much as CO2 to global warming, and largely negate the significance of other efforts to avoid acute climate change.
The Montreal Protocol is widely regarded as the most successful environmental accord in history for its success in fulfilling its mandate to phase out ODS and halting destruction of the Earth’s ozone layer. That mandate also obligates member nations to address the “adverse effects” of eliminating ODS, which explicitly includes negative impacts on climate. Despite this, and the proven expertise and success of the Montreal Protocol in achieving ODS/chemical phase-outs within precisely the same sectors that are currently “phasing-in” HFCs, the world’s largest developing economies continue to reject action under the Montreal Protocol to regulate HFCs.
“Phasing out man-made HFCs and replacing them with climate-safe alternatives is the most significant, cost-effective and immediate global option available for mitigating GHG emissions,” said EIA Senior Campaigner Clare Perry. “Brazil, China and India need to stop trying to use the Montreal Protocol as leverage in the climate negotiations and sabotaging desperately needed concrete action for climate protection.”