Steady Progress on Ozone and Climate at Bangkok Talks

Countries gathered in Bangkok for their midyear meeting to make headway on the ongoing phaseout of ozone-killing HCFCs and to start implementing the phase-down of climate-damaging HFCs.

This post co-authored by Alex Hillbrand

The Montreal Protocol’s 30th anniversary is shaping up to be a good year for ozone and climate protection.

The parties gathered last week in Bangkok for their midyear meeting to make headway on the ongoing phase-out of ozone-killing HCFCs and to start working implementing the phase-down of climate-damaging HFCs agreed in Kigali, Rwanda, last year.

Although not as glamorous as the Kigali meeting, good progress was made and nearly all countries played constructive roles.   

We reported earlier on the progress made by the Montreal Protocol’s funding body, the Multilateral Fund. Last week’s meeting began with a well-attended Safety Standards Workshop on Monday to discuss the updates to international and national codes and standards needed to assure that the climate-friendly but flammable refrigerant alternatives to HFCs can be used safely. These include some HFCs with relatively low heat-trapping power, and very low GWP compounds such as HFOs and propane.

To use these gases safely, product design standards need to be improved to reflect safety measures (such as better leak prevention and spark avoidance). In many cases, building fire codes also will need to be updated to reflect safe practices for installing and using air conditioning products using flammable refrigerants.

Representatives of international and national safety standards committees presented their plans to update standards and the timelines they hope to follow. They offered reassurance that the Kigali Amendment’s phase-down timetable leaves enough time for safety standards to be revised. In some places, such as the U.S., states and cities will need assistance to update their building codes quickly.

Following the workshop, the Protocol parties met for four days to consider, among other things, replenishment the Multilateral Fund for the next three years. The Technology and Economic Assessment Panel (TEAP) shared its estimate of the funds needed to help developing countries meet the next stage of their HCFC phase-out obligations, and to get started planning for HFC reductions. 

The TEAP estimated that about $600 - $750 million will be needed during 2018-2020, up modestly from just over $500 million required during 2015-2017. About 90-95 percent of this funding would go to the ozone-saving work of phasing out HCFCs. The remainder, TEAP estimates, will go towards early “enabling” activities to help countries plan for the phase-down of HFCs as agreed in Kigali. Parties were keenly interested whether the estimated amounts would support “leap-frogging” over HFCs, i.e., going directly to climate-friendlier alternatives when phasing out HCFCs. 

But it was energy efficiency that stole the show. Two groups of countries—India and several Middle Eastern countries, and the Africa Group—submitted statements on energy efficiency to the meeting. A very constructive conversation, kicked off by India, highlighted the critical importance of improving the efficiency of cooling appliances as a means to reduce climate-damaging carbon pollution from power plants.

India called for identifying what part of the energy efficiency picture the Montreal Protocol should address—the power consumption of air conditioners, for example, as opposed to whole-building energy efficiency. India called for the TEAP to consider how Protocol could support energy efficiency projects. Nearly 50 countries took the floor in the ensuing discussion. The parties agree to hold workshop on energy efficiency next year to address many of these key questions.  Also next year, the parties are to negotiate and agree upon guidelines to govern decisions of the Multilateral Fund on energy efficiency.

NRDC contributed by holding a side event reporting on global pathways to improve the energy-efficiency of air conditioning in tandem with the refrigerant transition. Over the last year, NRDC and our partners interviewed dozens of manufacturers to get a sense for how their product portfolios—and product planning—take these clean technologies into account, and what would help them move faster.

The meeting closed with delegates in high spirits, their expectations turned to the treaty’s 30th anniversary celebration, taking place in Montreal this November. There they will complete negotiations on the 2018-2020 funding replenishment and continue developing approaches to leverage big improvements in the energy efficiency of rapidly-growing air conditioning equipment.