Participants in last week's Montreal Protocol meetings in Vienna made progress towards a global deal on managing HFCs. Confidence was high among the international community that a definitive agreement can be struck at the next meeting in October 2016.
“Amending the Montreal Protocol to phase down HFCs is one of the single most important unitary steps that we could possibly take at this moment to stave off the worst impacts of climate change and to protect the future for people in every single corner of the globe,” said US Secretary of State John Kerry in Vienna on Friday.
HFC phase-down of ‘equal importance’ to fighting terrorism
Kerry compared the importance of tackling HFC emissions to the global fight against terror.
“Yesterday, I met in Washington with 45 nations – defence ministers and foreign ministers – as we were working together on the challenge of Daesh, ISIL, and terrorism. […] What we are doing here right now is of equal importance because it has the ability to literally save life on the planet itself.”
Close to 200 countries met in Vienna from 15-23 July to continue discussions on amending the Montreal Protocol to address growing emissions of HFCs in developed and developing countries. Last year, the nations pledged to reach a deal on phasing down HFCs globally by the end of 2016. Last week delivered significant progress that should pave the way for such an agreement to be adopted at the next Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol in Kigali, Rwanda in October 2016.
Challenges remain ahead of October gathering
Countries were able to make progress on challenges including funding, exemptions not related to high ambient temperature regions (such as essential use exemptions), and links to the existing phase out of HCFCs.
The Parties discussed consumption freeze dates and reduction schedules for both developing and developed countries, and possible baseline years against which these targets will be set. Developing countries were demanding higher levels of ambition from rich nations, in order to speed up the adoption and increase the availability of HFC replacements.
The draft agreement sets developed nations a target of almost eliminating HFCs by 2030, while giving developing countries 10 or more years to reach the same levels. While there appeared to be broad agreement on the baseline, freeze date and first reduction steps for developed countries, the proposals currently on the table for developing countries differ widely and more work will be needed to overcome these differences before the October meeting.
India tabled the least ambitious proposal, suggesting a freeze in consumption of HFCs in 2031. The EU, Japan, the US, Switzerland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Norway were joined by the African group, Pacific island countries and some Latin American nations in a proposal to freeze HFC consumption in developing countries in 2021. Other countries, including China, Brazil, Argentina and Indonesia, supported freeze dates between these two dates.
Towards a legally-binding deal
The Parties agreed that further inter-sessional work will be needed between now and October in order to narrow down the remaining differences and secure alignment on the future shape of a global HFC phase-down. Expectations are now high that a deal to be sealed in Rwanda.
The amendment – which would be legally binding on the 197 Parties to the Montreal Protocol – could potentially make a greater contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions than the Paris Agreement struck during UNFCCC at the end of 2015, in which the pledges made by countries to reduce their emissions are voluntary.