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Progress was achieved at the 26th Meeting of the Parties (MOP) to the Montreal Protocol held on 17-21 November in Paris with close to 200 countries able to agree to hold informal discussions on HFCs in a structured manner. In addition, an agreement was made to hold an extraordinary meeting in April 2015 together with a workshop to discuss the management of HFCs.
Despite high expectations on moving forward on the global HFC phase down under the Montreal Protocol, countries were unable to discuss the issue formally, mainly as a result of resistance by the Gulf countries, together with Pakistan.
Nevertheless, given the increasing pressure exerted by proponents of the HFC amendment (US, Canada, Mexico, and the Federated States of Micronesia), the EU’s important role in facilitating the debate, together with the broad support from a majority of developed and developing countries, it is likely that an agreement on a global HFC phase down will be struck in 2015 or latest 2016.
Countries agree on historically high replenishment of the Multilateral Fund
Developing countries may be encouraged to increase their support for an HFC amendment following the agreement on the replenishment of the Multilateral Fund for 2015-2017 fixed at $507.5 million (€406,4 million). This is higher than replenishments agreed for previous trienniums. The Multilateral Fund is a dedicated fund under the Montreal Protocol providing financial resources to developing countries to assist them in phasing down ozone-depleting substances.
While demonstration projects are often seen as the most effective way to showcase low-GWP technology in developing countries, a funding window of $10 million (€8 million) was approved earlier this year for projects with low-GWP alternatives to ODS. These projects will be approved in 2015.
EU announces plans to submit HFC amendment proposal in 2015
While the North American and Micronesian amendment proposals in the last 6 years have failed to overcome the opposition of some of the developing countries, the EU has taken a slightly different approach, which sparked new interest in the HFC talks. In the discussion paper submitted prior to the meeting the EU has taken account of some of the concerns raised, which indicated the willingness to openly discuss the mechanisms for reducing the HFC production and consumption while taking account of the existing obligations to phase out HCFCs.
On Friday, the European Union’s new Climate Commissioner, Miguel Arias Cañete, announced that the EU is considering submitting a formal proposal to amend the Montreal Protocol in 2015, ahead of talks to agree a global climate deal at CoP21 in Paris.
India and China show willingness to move forward
In previous years, the discussions on a potential global phase down of HFCs were blocked mainly by the two biggest economies, India and China. While China had loosened its opposition already at previous meetings, India for the first time did not oppose the inclusion of HFC amendment proposals in the meeting agenda, which raised a lot of optimism at the beginning of the meeting.
In their statements, China noted that they are open to working towards a multilateral agreement on HFCs, using the experience and institutions of the Montreal Protocol. China hopes that the international community will be able to address the legal issues concerning the Kyoto Protocol and the Montreal Protocol and reach a consensus. The countries opposing the inclusion of HFCs under the Montreal Protocol argue that these gases are already being dealt with under the Kyoto Protocol’s United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and bringing them under the Montreal Protocol would be in conflict with international law.
The presence of Prakash Javadekar, India’s Environment Minister was a clear sign of the country’s changing stance regarding HFCs. During the discussion in the high level panel he indicated that if there is enough time and if there is consensus, the international community will be able to successfully deal with HFCs. Moreover, by making concrete suggestions on next steps, such as joint collaborative research on alternatives or an extraordinary session to solve technology and finance questions, he indicated India’s interest in moving the issue forward.
Substantial progress blocked by Gulf countries, Pakistan
Gulf countries put a brake on the HFC discussions throughout the meeting and opposed formal discussion on the topic. Their main argument for not being able to agree was that low-GWP alternative solutions for HCFCs and high-GWP HFCs are not available for countries with ambient temperatures reaching over 52˚C.
In spite of intense discussions among delegates inside of the meeting room and in corridors, the last minute efforts of the USA to seal a deal on a mandate for a formal discussion group on HFCs hit significant opposition from Pakistan and Iraq who were not willing to support a formal discussion such a group.
Additional information on alternatives to ODS required
In order to address the concerns of developing countries, the Parties requested that the Technology and Economic Assessment Panel (TEAP) provide additional information on alternatives to ozone-depleting substances (ODS) with a focus on high ambient temperature regions. Moreover, the report that will be presented to the Parties in July 2015 and updated for a Meeting of the Parties in November 2015 should identify alternatives that are commercially available, technically proven, environmentally sound, economically viable and cost effective, as well as safe to use in areas with high urban densities and taking into consideration flammability and toxicity issues.