Let’s Get this Done; Decision at Warsaw on HFCs Needed to Bridge Gigatonne Gap

Parties met last week in Bonn, Germany to begin discussing the next legally binding agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and combat climate change. This is agreement is potentially the most significant global treaty that will ever be negotiated. To help structure the negotiations, two tracks were formed: Work Stream One that focuses on the “big 2015 deal;” and Work Stream Two which focuses on what can be done before the new agreement is ratified and goes into effect to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. As part of Work Stream Two, Parties are looking for creative ways to make significant progress in reducing the 8-13 gigaton gap that exists between the greenhouse gas emissions that Parties have pledged to reduce and what is necessary to keep temperatures below a 2.0°C increase in world temperatures.

On Wednesday, the delegation from the European Union presented a concrete proposal to help reduce this gap. They recommended that the Parties adopt a formal decision at the next Conference of the Parties in Warsaw (November 2013) that encourages to the Montreal Protocol to go forward with a phase-down of the consumption and production of HFCs (hydroflourocarbons). Since that proposal, other parties have made statements in support, Nauru calling for a decision on an HFC phase-down in Warsaw, Mexico calling for swift action on HFCs, and New Zealand arguing that movement on HFCs is a catalyst for action to combat climate change on a broader level. The Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) stated that mitigation from wherever it comes from is good, including reducing HFCs. These steps are significant in creating momentum for the international phase-down of HFCs at the Montreal Protocol.

The Montreal Protocol is the most successful international environmental treaty, and is uniquely positioned to adopt and implement a phase-down of HFCs. The Montreal Protocol has universal membership and has phased-out 97 different chemicals responsible for ozone depletion, and is now phasing out the next class of ozone depleting chemicals HCFCs (hydrochloroflourocarbons) in the exact same industrial sectors that are currently using HFCs. The Montreal Protocol has the structures and supports in place so the phase-down of HFCs could start virtually immediately.

We need action now on HFCs, and the best way forward is to encourage the Montreal Protocol to immediately begin the phase-down of HFCs. As the Climate Action Network stated at the special event held for observers:

“We also support the idea that the Warsaw COP invites action to phase-down HFCs under the Montreal Protocol, with its effective and proven mechanism for technology transfer and financial support for developing countries. We suggest Work Stream two start drafting a COP decision on this now.”