Hopes high for deal on phasing out HFCs

26th July 2016


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IEMA

Good progress has been made on a deal to phase down potent greenhouse gases (GHGs) used in aerosols, refrigerants, air-conditioners and insulants during international talks.

The talks, held in Vienna, Austria, saw the 197 parties to the Montreal Protocol meet to discuss phasing out use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). These chemicals replaced chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which were phased out under the Montreal protocol due to the harm they caused to the earth’s ozone layer, although they contribute to global warming.

Negotiators reached agreement on finance, intellectual property and linkages to hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), which are ozone-depleting substances already being phased out.

Progress was also made on narrowing the range of dates for freezing consumption of HFCs by developing countries. However, significant differences remain between countries on the ambition of the agreement and timing of the phaseout.

The EU and JUSSCANNZ (Japan, the US, Switzerland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Norway) submitted a joint proposal, offering more lenient starting points for both developed and developing countries than those proposed earlier proposals by North American countries and Europe. African, Pacific island and Latin American countries support the new developing country schedule, which is the most ambitious proposed so far, with a freeze on an HFC consumption in 2021.

However, India is not planning a freeze until 2031. Its government says that the costs of new substitute coolants would disproportionately affect people in developing countries with warm climates, and where the use of air conditioning is expected to soar in coming decades.

But campaigners are concerned that if developing countries delay a phase-out, they will miss the opportunity to transition from HCFCs to more climate-friendly alternatives, bypassing the use of HFCs altogether.

Clare Perry, climate campaign leader for the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), said countries were moving in the right direction but there was a huge amount of work to be done before a deal could be finalised in Rwanda in October.

‘Discussions on the HFC schedule for developed countries lacked the ambition we expect, given that these countries are in a position to fully understand their current HFC consumption and are already taking domestic action to phase down HFCs,’ she said.

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