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World edges closer to HFC phase-down

The July 2015 Open-Ended Working Group (OWEG) of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol meeting in Paris came agonisingly close to setting the mandate to commence negotiations for a global phase-down of HFCs like R134a under the Montreal Protocol.

Photo of July 2015 Open-Ended Working Group (OWEG) of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol meeting in Paris  by IISD/ENB (www.iisd.ca/ozone/oewg36/24jul.html)
Photo by IISD/ENB (www.iisd.ca/ozone/oewg36/24jul.html)

Proceedings were adjourned as time ran out in the French capital, meaning the talks are likely to resume before the next Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol, to be held from November 1-5 in Dubai.

A desire to take a phase-down agreement to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties in Paris this December has set a deadline for many at the negotiating table.

Although Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states have so far maintained stubborn opposition to an HFC phase-down based on an opinion that alternative technologies are not up to the task for their harsh and extremely hot climates, those at the Paris talks witnessed a turnaround from the usual blocking of negotiations to showing promising signs of a willingness to come up with a deal.

It was mainly long-time HFC phase-down opponent Pakistan’s inability to agree that derailed proceedings.

That, combined with the looming Paris climate conference in December, lent the talks a sense that the world was watching and heightened the need to strike a deal. Compared with previous Open-Ended Working Group meetings, a lot of observers were present from both industry and environmental non-governmental organisations.

At the time of the OWEG meeting, five HFC phase-down proposals were on the table from North America, the European Union, India, Senegal and a group of Pacific island states, while HFCs were mentioned in the emission reduction targets of 18 countries.

Australia has now joined that group, as reported in the August edition of SightGlass eNews.

Shortly before the OWEG meeting, Brazil also agreed to an HFC phase-down under the Montreal Protocol, the outcome of a meeting between US president Barack Obama and Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff.