Could global action on HFCs help bridge the 8Gt emissions gap?

By Alexandra Maratou, Nov 28, 2012, 13:54 3 minute reading

Two reports published ahead of the United Nations climate change conference in Doha, Qatar, warn that unless the world scales up greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction pledges we are on track for a 4°C rise in global temperature this century, considerably higher than the target of keeping global warming below 2°C.

The "Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4°C Warmer World Must be Avoided" report published by the World Bank warns that we are currently on track for a 4°C warmer world marked by extreme heat-waves, declining global food stocks, loss of ecosystems and biodiversity, and life-threatening sea level rise.

Similarly, the Emissions Gap Report 2012 launched last week by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) points out that even if the most ambitious level of current pledges and commitments were implemented by all countries, emissions could still rise to 58 gigatonnes (Gt) by 2020. This would leave a gap of at least 8 Gt of CO2 equivalent by 2020 to be in line with greenhouse gas emissions levels that scientists say is necessary for keeping global temperature rise below 2°C this century.

The Emissions Gap Report 2012 report notes that keeping average global temperature rise to below 2°C is still achievable, with potentially big cuts possible from buildings, transportation and avoided deforestation. Improved energy efficiency in industry could deliver cuts of between 1.5 and 4.6 Gt of CO2 equivalent. Agriculture could deliver cuts between 1.1 and 4.3 Gt, forestry 1.3 to 4.2 Gt, the power sector 2.2 to 3.9 Gt, buildings 1.4 to 2.9 Gt, transportation including shipping and aviation 1.7 to 2.5 Gt, and the waste sector around 0.8 Gt.

HFCs could be responsible for up to 8.8 Gt CO2eq by 2050

A previous report by UNEP published in late 2011 projected that by 2050 HFCs could be responsible for emissions equivalent to 3.5 to 8.8 Gt CO2eq - comparable to total current annual emissions from transport. The report highlighted that keeping a global, 21st century temperature rise under 2°C will require urgent action on HFCs that are increasingly being used in air conditioners, refrigerators, firefighting equipment and insulation foams etc.

EC: We need to put real money behind new collaborative initiatives

The opportunity to narrow the emissions gap by taking global action on HFCs was also highlighted by the European Commission (EC) at the Brussels launch of the Emissions Gap Report 2012 by UNEP on 22 November 2012.

Mr. Artur Runge-Metzger, Director International & Climate Strategy at the European Commission’s Directorate General for Climate Action noted that although politically the EU is not likely to up its pledge from 20% to 30% greenhouse gas emissions reduction in 2020 compared to 1990 levels, the block is likely to achieve additional emission reductions through other domestic initiatives such as taking action on fluorinated gases. Internationally the EU has for a long time supported proposed HFC amendments to the Montreal Protocol, while 100+ countries have signed the Bali Declaration on Transitioning to Low Global Warming Potential Alternatives to Ozone Depleting Substances.

But before global consensus is achieved, participation in new collaborative initiatives that reward the “champions” such as the Climate and Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants (CCAC) including HFCs can help narrow the emissions gap. “We need to put real money behind [such] initiatives”, he noted at the end of his speech.

The EU has also asked the Qatari Presidency to hold ministerial discussions during the Doha UNFCCC climate talks to agree on concrete measures to cut global emissions further before 2020, including international action on HFCs.


By Alexandra Maratou

Nov 28, 2012, 13:54

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