The Conference of the Parties (COP21) of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) opened on Monday amidst passionate calls for a global deal to prevent global temperatures rising beyond 2 degrees Celsius. Despite 147 heads of state emphasizing the need for global action during the last two days, one thing is clear: the national pledges, formally known as Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), to the UNFCCC made by these very countries so far do not reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions sufficiently to limit warming to below 2 ⁰C. To date, more than 150 countries have submitted their INDCs, which even in the most optimistic scenario of 100 percent success in implementation, put the world on track for 2.7–3.7 degrees ⁰C warming (depending on modelling assumptions).
Meanwhile, Parties to the Montreal Protocol (often referred to as the world’s most successful environmental treaty) are working to enact a global phase down of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) which would result in the mitigation of 100-200 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (GtCO2e) by 2050 and the avoidance of 0.5 degrees ⁰C warming by 2100. The HFC phase down would make a crucial contribution to the current global mitigation efforts that fall short of what is needed to curb climate change to a level considered safe by scientists.
HFCs are potent greenhouse gases used in refrigerators, air conditioners, and industrial applications. Though these gases represent just 2 percent of the current total of all GHG emissions, their warming impact is high and their use is rapidly increasing. Left unabated, HFC emissions could grow to nearly 20 percent of carbon dioxide emissions by 2050, offsetting most of the pledged reductions of other GHGs in the INDCs – a serious climate mitigation concern.
The good news is that last month the Parties to the Montreal Protocol did launch formal negotiations on the phase down of HFCs, which is one of the largest, fastest, and most cost effective global climate mitigation measures available. In a landmark decision, the 27th Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol in Dubai this past November concluded with consensus amongst its 197 Parties on the “Dubai Pathway on HFCs” in which the Parties agreed to “work within the Montreal Protocol to an HFC amendment in 2016.”
What happened at the Montreal Protocol this year
This year, four different amendment proposals to control the consumption and production of HFCs under the Montreal Protocol were submitted to the Parties for their consideration. In addition to the proposals on behalf of the North American countries and a coalition of eight Island States which have been submitted repeatedly since 2009, two new proposals were submitted: one on behalf of the 28 Member States of the EU and another by India. These formal amendments were supported by a Conference Room Paper submitted by the 54 countries of the African Group, proposing a process for moving the amendments forward. Each of these submissions, and the support received, reflected international recognition for an amendment to regulate HFC production and consumption under the Montreal Protocol, from a total of 93 governments.
This international momentum was also bolstered by domestic and regional action to control HFC use in several regions of the world including the EU, the United States, China, Canada, Australia, and California.
How Montreal and Paris complement one another
An amendment at Montreal Protocol to phase down HFCs would systematically reduce consumption and production and control by-product emissions of HFCs in all countries. It would also provide financial assistance, through the Protocol’s Multilateral Fund, to developing countries to meet their commitments. Additionally, under the Montreal Protocol, developing countries would begin their HFC phase down several years after developed countries and would gradually reduce their HFC production and consumption over several decades. This extended timeframe provides developing countries the opportunity to determine what climate-friendly HFC alternatives are cheapest, most effective, and energy efficient for their particular national circumstances. The reporting and accounting provisions of the UNFCCC and Kyoto Protocol on HFC emissions however, remains unchanged.
The Parties to the Montreal Protocol have taken a critical first step toward this ambitious target by adopting the “Dubai Pathway on HFCs” and committing themselves to “work within the Montreal Protocol to an HFC amendment in 2016.”
We hope parties at COP21 support these formal negotiations in 2016 under the Montreal Protocol to bring about a swift global agreement to address the consumption and production of HFCs and the massive associated GHG mitigation. EIA is at COP21 to work to ensure that progress made at Montreal Protocol this year is taken further by UNFCCC. Follow this space for updates.
You can also follow EIA Twitter for live updates from #COP21: @EIAEnvironment
Join EIA at COP21 on December 11, for a presentation on “Technological Break-Throughs in the Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Sector: New Cost Effective and Energy Efficient Solutions.” Details here.