UNITED STATES Secretary of State John Kerry is optimistic that if the parties to the Montreal Protocol adopt the amendment to phase down hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), it will signal a momentous step to limit global warming.
Kerry was addressing the second day of the Meeting of the parties to the international environment treaty on substances that deplete the ozone layer, which was agreed upon on September 16, 1987.
The Parties to the Montreal Protocol have amended the Protocol six times, so far, to enable, among other things, the control of new chemicals such as chloroflourocarbons (CFCs)—and now likely HFCs—and later allow the creation of a financial mechanism to enable developing countries to comply.
HFCs are the world’s fastest growing climate pollutants. This greenhouse gas is a powerful heat-trapping pollutant, packing hundreds to thousands of times the climate warming punch of carbon dioxide, pound for pound.
This amendment proposal, once adopted would avoid HFCs equivalent to around 68 billion to 73 billion tons of CO2 emissions. Studies show that phasing down HFCs could help avoid 0.5°C more global warming by the turn of the century.
“Adopting amendment to phase down use of HFCs is the most important step we could take at this moment to limit global warming,” Kerry said.
The US state secretary acknowledged that, the US has “deeply invested” in these negotiations to amend the treaty, “and ready to work with all to make possible a meaningful outcome.
Environmentalists say if HFC growth is not stopped, it becomes virtually impossible to meet the Paris Agreement goals of holding warming below 2°C.
“Every day we move up freeze dates, every hour we accelerate phasedown, every bit of HFC consumption reduced makes a difference. I believe we recognise it’s time to meet this global threat with seriousness it demands and address it boldly, now,” Kerry said.
By press time, parties to the Montreal Protocol had not come out to announce if the amendment had been agreed on.
But Erik Solheim, executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), told Saturday Times that it would be a “shame” if parties failed to adopt the amendment in Kigali.
Nearly 200 countries have been meeting in Kigali, this week, and all the core details of a Montreal Protocol amendment are now in place, according to Bhaskar Deol, from Natural Resource Defence Centre (NRDC) India Representative.
Bhaskar said a large number of developing countries (including China and most other developing country HFCs producers) are proposing a freeze in 2024, and phase-down steps starting starting 2029. A smaller group of countries, including India, will freeze HFCs in 2028, and start cutting down use by 2030.
“Parties are going to spend the rest of the evening discussing details of the agreement, which will likely go into early hours of the morning, but we expect a decision to amend the Protocol would be taken tonight,” Bhaskar told Saturday Times yesterday.
During a Twitter interactive session with Brian Neubert, the director of Africa Regional Media Hub in the US Department of State, he said major obstacles toward the historical amendment of the Montreal Protocol include “varying levels of ambitions” in innovation and technology.
“Level of ambition varies…must be confident in innovation and investment to create sustainable alternatives,” Neubert said.
Another issue that parties are yet to finalise is the source of financing to implement the amendments of the protocol.
Last month, Kerry announced that, “if an ambitious amendment is concluded in Kigali, the United States and other donor countries intend to contribute an additional $27 million to the multilateral fund in 2017 alone as extra support for the amendment’s implementation.”
Kerry added that nearly 20 donors from the philanthropic community will also complement these funds to the tune of more than $50 million.
Tina Birmpili, executive secretary of the Ozone Secretariat in UNEP, said the deal to phase down HFCS “can’t make you all happy, but it can make you all relatively happy.”
Meanwhile, delegates at the 28th Meeting of the parties to the Montreal Protocol (MOP28) yesterday, came together for a tree planting exercise in Kigali.
Dr Vincent Biruta, the minister for natural resources, said the activity signals goodwill that the world is committed to “a better planet.”