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HFC phase-down hope

Talks start for real in Geneva after years of deadlock

By Refrigerants Australia executive director Greg Picker, reporting from Switzerland

Negotiations on an HFC phase-down began in Geneva in April this year. 

These talks are noteworthy because for the first time since the proposal to phase down HFCs was suggested in 2009, there was agreement to actually begin to discuss an amendment to the Montreal Protocol – to put this idea into force.

No longer is the international community preparing to talk, they are actually engaged in it, with the common aim of reaching agreement during 2016.

Good progress was made and a couple of issues have been – if not resolved – at least largely managed. There has been concern from some countries that suffer from extreme heat that technologically appropriate solutions are not available for all applications. 

Countries have agreed a process by which those countries that experience “high ambient temperatures” can opt out of the amendment until such time as solutions are both designed and available. 

The second issue – and this one is crucial – relates to funding. Developing countries that produce and use both HCFCs and highly potent HFCs want support to shift production and use. Not surprisingly, negotiations on money are challenging.

But these negotiations proceeded well and while dollar figures will never be discussed explicitly in the forums, agreement to the types of support and criteria for access have been mostly agreed.

These outcomes mean that it may well be possible to have agreement this year. 

The deal is not done, however, and far more issues need to be addressed and resolved. The dates this will need to occur are in mid-July and the place is Vienna, Austria.

Here the global community will come together again for a special negotiation on this topic. There are eight days in which the world will witness whether a deal can be done.

While this is not the last chance to make an agreement, if we don’t at least get close in Vienna the situation will become very dire. The last negotiations of the year are in Kigali (Rwanda) in October

Make no mistake, we need an agreement this year. The key date is the first Tuesday of November – but not because of the Melbourne Cup! More importantly, it is the US Presidential election, and the Obama administration has been pivotal in driving an HFC phase-down.

There is a strong sense that in the absence of US pressure, agreement becomes far less likely and perhaps impossible (certainly if the US is led by a President Trump).

For the first time in a long time, industry needs to pay attention to the Montreal Protocol negotiations as decisions that will directly impact industry are being made there.