108 Countries Support HFC Curbs under Montreal Protocol

The parties to the Montreal Protocol resumed their debate this week in Bali, Indonesia, on whether they can do more to protect the climate under the world’s most successful environmental treaty. 

In other posts, I’ve explained how the Montreal Protocol has provided huge climate side-benefits because many of the ozone-depleting chemicals are also powerful heat-trapping gases.  But those benefits are now being eroded by the rapid growth of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), the “super greenhouse gases” that are coming into widespread use as replacements for their ozone-depleting predecessors. 

The good news:  Support continued to grow in Bali for taking steps to avoid disastrous increases in production of HFCs.  108 countries – more than half the world’s nations – have now backed moving forward on HFC phase-down proposals from Micronesia and from Canada, Mexico, and the United States.  That’s up from 91 supporters last year and 41 two years ago.  (The countries are listed below.)

The bad news:  India, China, and Brazil still stand in the way. 

Dozens of countries – both developed and developing – voiced support, often passionately, for the HFC proposals.  Many speakers acknowledged that the rapid HFC growth is being driven by the phase-out of other chemicals ordered by Montreal Protocol.  They also affirmed that the Protocol gives the parties the authority and responsibility to assure the safety of alternatives for ozone-depleting chemicals.   As several speakers put it:  “The Montreal Protocol created this monster, and the Montreal Protocol has to clean it up.” 

India, China, and Brazil could muster fewer than a half-dozen other countries to back their rejection of negotiations on the HFC proposals.  They are obviously uncomfortable in their increasing isolation – indeed, they objected to any reference in the official meeting report to the number of parties on each side of the debate.  But they are still not ready to move.  They continued to argue that HFCs lie exclusively in the jurisdiction of the climate treaties. 

The climate treaties are the elephant in the room.  The climate negotiations starting next week in South Africa are riven with conflict.  Almost all the attention there goes to carbon dioxide and energy and forest policy.  HFCs never even get any airtime there.  In contrast, the Montreal Protocol has the expertise, the bandwidth, and tradition of cooperation to deal with HFCs.  

The HFC proposals have been taken hostage in the climate talks.  But it’s precisely when hostages are taken that deals are possible.  China, India, and Brazil want the Kyoto Protocol parties – primarily the European Union – to make post-2012 commitments.  The European Union wants those countries to make additional commitments of their own.  One of those commitments could be to unblock HFCs in Montreal.  Let’s see what happens in the wheeling-and-dealing in Durban.  

In any case, it's a safe bet that Micronesia and the U.S., Mexico, and Canada will put their proposals forward again next year, and that pressure will continue to mount on the few countries that stand in the way.

Here's the text of the HFC declaration.  It was put forward at last year's meeting of the parties, and had 90 signatories.  Croatia added its name after the meeting.  Here in Bali, 17 additional parties listed below affiliated themselves with the declaration, raising the total to 108.

Declaration on the Global Transition Away From Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) and Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)

Recognizing that hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) are replacements for ozone depleting substances (ODS) being phased out under the Montreal Protocol, and that the projected increase in their use is a major challenge for the world’s climate system that must be addressed through concerted international action,

Recognizing also that the Montreal Protocol is well-suited to making progress in replacing hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) with low-GWP alternatives,

Mindful that certain high-GWP alternatives to HCFCs and other ODS are covered by the UNFCCC and its Kyoto Protocol and that action under the Montreal Protocol should not have the effect of exempting them from the scope of the commitments contained thereunder,

Interested in harmonizing appropriate policies toward a global transition from HCFCs to environmentally sound alternatives,

Encourage all Parties to promote policies and measures aimed at selecting low-GWP alternatives to HCFCs and other ODS,

Declare our intent to pursue further action under the Montreal Protocol aimed at transitioning the world to environmentally sound alternatives to HCFCs and CFCs.

Original signatories in Bangkok, November 2010

Afghanistan, Antigua and Barbuda, Armenia, Austria, Australia, Bahamas, Bangladesh, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bosnia and Herzegovinia, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Columbia, Comoros, Congo, Cook Islands, Costa Rica, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Estonia, European Union, Federated States of Micronesia, Finland, France, Gabon, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Haiti, Hungary, Indonesia, Iraq, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritius, Macedonia, Malta, Mexico, Montenegro, Mozambique, Myanmar, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Palau, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Saint Lucia, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Timor-Leste, Togo, Tuvalu, Uganda, United Kingdom, United States of America, Vietnam

Additional signatory:  Croatia

Additional signatories in Bali, November 2011 

Belarus, Cote D'Ivoire, Equitorial Guinea, Grenada, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Kenya, Malawi, Maldives, Morroco, Seychelles, Solomon Islands, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Swaziland, Trinadad and Tobago, Yemen, Zambia