Hong Kong Customs displays 82.5kg of rhino horns from South Africa and destined for Malaysia. Photo: ISD

41 Nations Join Island Effort for Fast Phase-out of Super Greenhouse Gases

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The biggest news this year for climate protection could come this week when delegates from around the world meet in Port Ghalib, Egypt to weigh action on phasing out hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). Used primarily in the world’s more than 4 billion refrigerators and air conditioners, soaring HFC use threatens to negate efforts to offset CO2 and other greenhouse gas reductions being negotiated within the Copenhagen talks.

“By some estimates, action to freeze and then reduce this group of gases could buy the world the equivalent of a decade’s-worth of C02 emissions,” says U.N. Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner. The annual meeting of the Montreal Protocol, widely considered the most successful environmental accord in history for its role in eliminating the threat to the ozone layer, will consider two amendments aimed at freezing and phasing out HFCs – just as was done for ozone depleting substances.

According to Dr. Guus Velders of the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, the lead author of a recent scientific paper on HFCs, “Because of the projected growth of these climate-warming chemicals, they could represent up to 45 per cent of the total global C02 emissions by 2050 under a scenario that stabilizes C02 emissions at 450 parts per million. Preventing strong growth in HFC use is an important climate mitigation option the world has now.”

The first of the proposed amendments was introduced by Micronesia and Mauritius in May, and subsequently endorsed by a number of island nations that are at acute risk from rising sea level. “The will is there. Our job now is to turn that will into a way,” Grenada’s U.N. ambassador, Dessima Williams, current chairwoman of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), wrote about the HFC amendment. She feels the prospect for success this year is excellent, and recently there has been growing support from the EU and most island nations as well as within Latin and Central America, and Africa to take action on HFCs.

The second proposal was submitted by the United States, Canada and Mexico in August and also aims to eliminate HFCs and replace them with climate friendly alternatives that already exist for almost all HFC uses. Deputy Assistant Secretary for Environment at U.S. Department of State Dan Reifsnyder commented, “This North American proposal represents a significant down payment on efforts to be pursued at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Copenhagen, Denmark, this December”.

“The world’s leaders have the opportunity to prevent some 200 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions in a single stroke”, said Samuel LaBudde, U.S. Senior Climate Campaigner for the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA). “An HFC phase out is not something that can be done instead of reducing CO2. It’s something that has to be done to make all the othenow”.

Samuel LaBudde or Sascha von Bismarck at EIA in Washington, DC (202) 483-6621
Fionnuala Walravens at EIA in London, UK 44 (0) 20 7354 7960
Environmental Investigation Agency
PO Box 53343, Washington, DC 20009 www.eia-global.org
Tel: +1 202 483 6621/ Fax: +1 202 986 8626