Montreal, Canada: Faced with a funding shortfall for eliminating ozone-depleting substances (ODS), the Montreal Protocol is preparing to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to phase in hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) – even though these substances could sabotage international efforts to halt global warming.
Despite its reputation as the most successful environmental accord in history, the Montreal Protocol has not received adequate funding from donor nations and will begin replacing ODS with HFCs rather than slightly more expensive alternatives which have negligible impacts on climate.
For the want of US$50-100 million a year, the opportunity to largely eliminate one of the six greenhouse gases by preventing the uptake of HFCs in developing countries may be lost.
“It’s penny wise and planet foolish”, said Clare Perry, a senior campaigner with the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA). “Here’s a chance to lock in the biggest climate mitigation effort in history at a cost far below anything available through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and instead we’re going to pay nations to replace chemicals that destroy the ozone layer with some of the most powerful greenhouse gases ever created.”
This week’s meeting of the Multilateral Fund (MLF) – the funding arm of the Montreal Protocol – in Montreal, Canada will consider national management plans submitted by countries to begin eliminating hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs). In 2007, Parties to the Montreal Protocol agreed to accelerate the phase-out of HCFCs, with developing countries agreeing to reduce HCFC use by 10 per cent in 2015, with subsequent reductions every five years thereafter.
Donor nations pledged “stable and sufficient funding” to cover the cost of implementing these reductions, but so far the emphasis has been on “stable”, with implementing agencies being asked to help countries meet their phase-out commitments with less than 55 per cent of the required budget. Rather than bypassing HFCs by transitioning directly to alternatives with low global warming potentials, Parties are being forced to submit plans which utilise cheaper climate-damaging HFCs.
Collectively, the world’s developed nations contribute about US$500 million every three years to the MLF. The World Bank and United Nations Environment Programme have estimated the shortfall for implementing the HCFC phase-out at US$765 million up to 2014. The total cost for the HCFC phase-out is estimated at about US$4.5 billion and could prevent as much as 25 gigatons of CO2 equivalent (GtCO2e) emissions. By comparison, the UNFCCC’s Clean Development Mechanism is expected to spend approximately US$30 billion by 2012 to achieve only 1.5 GtCO2e of emissions offsets, making it in excess of 100 times more expensive than funding mitigation through the Montreal Protocol.
On March 14, 2011 European scientists reported a large ozone hole was forming over the Arctic and that a record loss was likely to occur as the hole extends to Eastern Europe and Scandinavia. It is believed global warming may be exacerbating the problem of ozone depletion in the Arctic as more heat becomes trapped in the lower atmosphere, intensifying cooling effects at higher altitudes which are required for ozone depletion.
“There have to be funds to replace ozone-depleting substances with responsible alternatives, particularly since phasing in HFCs could be fatal for climate protection,” said Samuel LaBudde, Senior Atmospheric Campaigner for EIA. “There’s no reason why the fluorocarbon industry itself couldn’t contribute funding to overcome shortfalls that threaten ozone recovery. They have profited massively from the proliferation of HCFCs under previous Montreal Protocol regulations.”
Dupont, the world’s second largest chemical manufacturer and the company primarily responsible for developing and first introducing ozone-depleting substances, posted US$1.13 billion in first-quarter profits for 2010.
If a phase-in of HFCs (rather than low-global warming potential alternatives and technologies which utilize CO2, ammonia and hydrocarbons) occurs because of limited MLF funding, it would greatly benefit fluorocarbon manufacturers by insuring that F-gases remain a robust industry for another 20 to 30 years.
Interviews are available on request: please contact Clare Perry, at firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 0034664348821.
1. The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) investigates and campaigns against environmental crime and abuses.
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