HFC negotiations in Kigali are heating up. Developing and developed countries are trading proposals and counter-proposals for freezing and phasing down HFCs in the effort to reach an ambitious Montreal Protocol amendment tomorrow.
Looking back, by our estimates the original North American phase-down proposal would have avoided HFCs equivalent to around 90 billion tons of CO2 between now and 2050. This is equal to almost three times the current annual CO2 emissions of the entire world.
The developing country proposal put on the table last night would avoid HFCs equivalent to around 68 billion tons of CO2. The developed countries’ counter-proposal would avoid approximately 73 billion tons.
The difference between the developed and developing countries’ offers is actually even larger than it appears, nearer to 7 billion tons. Here’s why:
Each group is asking the other to strengthen its own actions.
- If developed countries took all the steps developing countries are proposing, they would reduce HFCs by the CO2 equivalent of 2 billion tons more.
- If developing countries took all the steps developed countries are proposing, they would reduce HFCs by the CO2 equivalent of 5 billion tons more.
Thus, if each group were able to do what the other is asking, together they would avoid HFCs equal to another 7 billion tons of CO2 between now and 2050.
That’s a big number.
It’s 1.3 times the annual CO2 emissions of the United States. It’s 3 times the annual CO2 emissions of India. And it’s more than 20 times the annual CO2 emissions of the entire continent of Africa.
The Montreal Protocol has demonstrated the capability to “start and strengthen.” For example, we achieved the full phase-out of CFCs—the chemicals that destroyed the ozone layer—in several steps, starting in 1987, and strengthening and accelerating in 1990 and 1992. We will have to do this again with the phasedown of HFCs.
But it is important to take the strongest possible first step here in Kigali.
We call on ministers and negotiators from both developing and developed countries to dig deeper and seize as much of the 7 billion ton potential reduction that’s still on the table before they declare their work here in Kigali finished.
This post co-written with Alex Hillbrand.