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HFC progress despite Saudi concerns

12910439_sTHAILAND: Strong opposition from a few remaining countries suggest that there remains serious obstacles to a global HFC phase-down agreement under the Montreal Protocol.

Despite India’s u-turn in backing moves to bring HFC phase-down within the mechanisms of the Montreal Protocol, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states expressed serious opposition at last week’s Montreal Protocol discussions in Bangkok.

There were high expectations at the start of the meeting after India, previously one of the strongest opponents, submitted its own HFC phase-down amendment proposal. This proposal, in combination with those filed previously by the North American countries and Micronesia and the efforts of the African group, brought new energy to the negotiations, with the vast majority of developing and developed countries now backing a phase-down of HFCs under the Montreal Protocol. China also supports an HFC phase-down, as well as Europe, Asia  and nearly all of Latin America.

According to the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), the African group, in particular, emerged as a strong voice in support of tackling HFCs and overcoming resistance by a minority of countries.

“The efforts of India and Senegal, and the leadership of the African group in moving negotiations forward, provide hope that all countries can come to a swift agreement to take fast action on HFCs,” said Clare Perry, the EIA’s head of climate.

Parties agreed to continue inter-sessional work on HFCs with a view to establishing a contact group at the next OEWG meeting in Paris in July. The explicit mention of ‘contact group’ is significant as it indicates formal negotiations will start this year, says the EIA.

The Saudi Arabian objections are based on concerns that, in a region where cooling is so vital, new air conditioning options are not available. The Saudis did, however, agree to hold a separate meeting with a view to establishing a contact group on HFC proposals at the next negotiating session in Paris in July.

Meanwhile, the Indian proposals, while welcomed, are seriously at odds with US proposals. 

India has suggested developing countries freeze their HFC production and consumption levels in 2031, using a baseline calculated from the average between 2028 and 2030, then cut them to 15% of that by 2050.

Following this 16-year grace period, it wants full compensation for efforts and any abatement in around 150 developing countries. This would include compensation for any lost profits from the closure of HFC facilities, as well as full conversion costs for its industry to move to cleaner alternatives.

Speaking to the Carbon Pulse website before the meeting, the EIA’s Clare Perry said, “Their proposal is problematic because with no immediate abatement these countries can expand their HFC production over the next 15 years, and then expect countries to pay to convert those industries. It actually incentivises (these countries’) HFC industries to grow further.”

UN estimates suggest that the transition away from HFCs could cost developing countries more than $3bn – well over the $500m pledged so far by the developed world.

Related stories:

India drops opposition to HFC phase-down – April 17, 2015
BANGKOK: In a surprise move, India has dropped its opposition to bringing HFC phase-down controls into the Montreal Protocol mechanism. Read more…

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