Vienna HFC Update #2: Countries Engage and Bargaining Begins

HFC phase-down talks in Vienna are moving forward rapidly this week as countries engage on the specifics of freeze and reduction targets and funding needs. Negotiators have delved into key issues all week, and ministers are arriving for high-level talks over the next two days. Expectations are high for more progress this weekend and for completing the deal in Kigali, Rwanda, this October.

Talks this week have continued in the problem-solving spirit displayed last weekend, when parties resolved a list of key challenges. Having made huge progress on difficult issues, countries are now focused on the core questions: the pace of phase-down schedules for developed and developing countries, and the scope and scale of funding to help developing countries adopt climate-friendly alternatives, through the donor country-supported Multilateral Fund (MLF).

There’s growing support for an “ambition linkage” that pairs early action by developing countries with early and sufficient donor funding. Many developing countries, especially the African Group and various Latin American countries, are offering to move quickly provided they have sufficient MLF support.

Donor countries are on the same wavelength. The logic is compelling – early action best protects the climate by avoiding unnecessary HFC growth, and early financial support actually benefits both sides: It helps developing countries gain earlier access to climate-friendly and energy-efficient products and manufacturing methods, and it saves donors money by avoiding larger transition costs that would be incurred later if developing nations built up larger HFC-dependent industries.

Among the most notable contributions this week, China offered its own proposed schedule for freezing and reducing HFCs. As the world’s largest HFC producer, China has supported moving forward with an amendment for several years, but it had yet to offer a specific proposal. China’s proposed timetable is slower than schedules offered by the North American countries and Island States, but more aggressive than India’s (see comparison chart). None of these countries have drawn lines in the sand; all are emphasizing flexibility.

A number of countries, such as Saudi Arabia, Argentina, and Pakistan are still more cautious, but they too are ready to negotiate.

The engagement by ministers Friday and Saturday – including Secretary of State John Kerry and EPA Administrator McCarthy for the U.S. – will add political visibility and momentum. Ministers from countries in the Climate and Clean Air Coalition today called for completing an ambitious HFC deal this year. Tomorrow, an expanded list of countries will join a “high ambition group,” like the one that scored a key breakthrough at the Paris climate talks.

As the ministers meet, their negotiators will keep working – no doubt once again into the wee hours Sunday morning – towards a condensed negotiating text that will set things up for striking the final deal in Kigali.

We’ll update you again before the week is out.