TEAP also noted that the proposed ban on servicing refrigeration equipment with HFCs with GWP>2,500 by 2020 in the EU F-Gas Regulation may impact the application of these high GWP refrigerants globally.
Montreal Protocol Parties deliberate on amendment proposals to control HFCs
By the close of the meeting on Friday 16 November, the countries did not reach agreement on taking action on HFCs. Yet the debate did advance, with countries discussing HFC amendment proposals in an informal setting, as well as requesting more information on the availability of environmentally sound alternatives to ozone depleting substances (ODS).
This was the fourth consecutive year, where delegates discussed proposals to amend the Montreal Protocol to control HFCs. Two such proposals had been submitted ahead of the meeting by the Federated States of Micronesia on the one hand, and a joint proposal by Canada, Mexico and the US on the other.
While taking action on HFCs was described as a “moral obligation” by some Parties, others maintained that the Montreal Protocol is not the right forum to address climate warming gases such as HFCs and said they looked at the UNFCCC and its Kyoto Protocol for the matter. Like in previous years, they opposed the establishment of a “contact group”, where countries would formally discuss and work towards actionable decisions. However, for the first time this year an “informal discussion group” was formed, where countries had the chance to deliberate on the benefits and concerns with regards to taking global action on HFCs.
In this informal setting, several delegates emphasised that today we know much more about HFC alternatives than what the Parties knew about ODS alternatives when they decided to take action on ODS. The proponents of the amendment proposals argued that the proposed HFC phase-down with a plateau as opposed to a phase out takes into account that replacements might not be available in every sub-sector (e.g. some military uses), allows time for additional replacement options to be developed, while schedules could be subsequently adapted in light of technological progress.
Nonetheless, several of the countries that opposed action on HFCs, reiterated concerns about the availability of HFC alternatives and uncertainty with regards to emerging technologies.
Parties request further scrutiny on the availability of alternatives
To address concerns regarding the availability of alternatives, the Parties adopted a decision requesting “additional information on alternatives to ozone-depleting substances”. The decision requests the Technology and Economic Assessment Panel (TEAP) to prepare a report describing “all available alternatives to ODS that are commercially available, technically proven, environmentally-sound, taking into account their efficacy, health, safety and environmental characteristics, cost-effectiveness, and their use including in high ambient temperatures and high urban density cities“.
105 countries support transition to low GWP substances
The fact that Parties did not reach an agreement on taking global action on HFCs might not come as a surprise, as the treaty operates by consensus. In an effort to build consensus, the government of Indonesia that hosted last year’s Meeting of the Parties had put forward the “Bali Declaration on Transitioning to Low Global Warming Potential Alternatives to Ozone Depleting Substances”. In Geneva, Indonesia gave an update on the status of the Bali Declaration one year after its launch, noting that already 105 countries have supported it in writing, with several other countries having provided oral support. The initiative calls on Parties “to explore further and pursue under the Montreal Protocol the most effective means of achieving the transition to low global warming potential alternatives”.