In the face of four amendments on the table from the Island Nations, India, the EU and North America, objections to forming an HFC contact group to begin negotiating an amendment were finally dropped.
US secretary of state John Kerry, in a US party of more than 20 led by Environmental Protection Agency administrator Gina McCarthy, hailed the negotiations as a major accomplishment that shows “that the world is ready for a new chapter in the fight against climate change.”
Pleased with the progress made, Stephen Yurek, president and CEO of the US Air Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI), said “AHRI’s member companies – including refrigerant producers and original equipment manufacturers – have proactively been researching potential alternative refrigerants to ensure that the world’s air conditioning and refrigeration equipment manufacturers will have access to appropriate refrigerants. AHRI, US government agencies, and energy efficiency advocacy groups have all worked diligently for many years to ensure a phase-down of these chemicals. This collaboration is an excellent example of what can be accomplished when all parties work together in good faith to achieve a common goal.”
EPEE director general Andrea Voigt described the agreement as a major milestone on the road to addressing global HFC emissions. “2016 will be an exciting year to see how technical and financial challenges will be addressed during negotiations on a global phase-down of HFCs,” she said.
Clare Perry, climate campaign team leader of environmental group EIA, commented: “The Parties now need to roll their sleeves up, thrash out the details as early as possible and remind us why the Montreal Protocol is often referred to as the world’s most successful environmental treaty.”
Writing on the US Natural Resource Defence Council, the NRDC’s director, climate & clean air program, David Doniger says “While many details remain to be worked out, the general outline of solutions is not new. It follows the Montreal Protocol’s proven formula for success: Both developed and developing countries would agree to limit HFCs, with developing countries given more time and funding to cover transition costs.”
As with the phase-out of ozone-depleting substances, the parties would use the existing multilateral fund to administer transitional funding and the Technical and Economic Assessment Panel to asses the pace of technology development. Temporary exemptions would be allowed, if necessary, for example, to perfect alternatives for air conditioning in very hot climates.
“Not every problem has been solved,” writes David Doniger. “There is still a large gap between the parties on how long developing countries should have to freeze and reduce HFCs. The Indian proposal, for example, would impose no limits until 2031, while the other three proposals – from North America, the island states, and the European Union – envision HFC curbs beginning much sooner. India is also demanding more expansive funding assistance than has been provided in controlling prior chemicals, as well as broad concessions on patent rights.”