Global efforts to phase down Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) received a boost on Wednesday as more than 100 countries called for an ambitious amendment to the Montreal Protocol while a group of donor countries and philanthropists also announced their intent to provide $80 million in support to help countries in need of assistance.
The United States had during the week hosted a gathering of countries in New York to provide a boost of momentum to the upcoming international negotiations to adopt an amendment to the Montreal Protocol to phase down the potent greenhouse gases known as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). The event highlighted two significant announcements:
First, more than 100 countries called for securing an ambitious amendment with an â€œearly freeze date.â€ This group includes the United States, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, all 28 countries in the European Union, all 54 countries in Africa, and several island states that are the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Complementing this announcement, more than 500 companies and organizations and hundreds of sub-national governments called upon world leaders to take strong action on HFCs.
Secondly, a group of donor countries and philanthropists announced their intent to provide $80 million in support to help countries in need of assistance (i.e., Article 5 countries) implement an ambitious amendment and improve energy efficiency. The philanthropic component of this is the largest-ever private grant made for energy efficiency in this sector.
HFCs are factory-made chemicals that are primarily used in air conditioning, refrigeration, and foam insulation, and they can be hundreds to thousands of times more potent than carbon dioxide in contributing to climate change. If left unchecked, global HFC emissions could grow to be equivalent to 19 percent of total carbon dioxide emissions in 2050. There are alternative refrigerants available that have comparable performance to HFCs but with significantly reduced climate-changing properties.
Securing an ambitious amendment to the Montreal Protocol to phase down HFCs could avoid up to 0.5Â°C of warming by the end of the century, making a major contribution to the Paris Agreement goal to limit global temperature rise to well below 2Â°C. Countries agreed last November to â€œwork within the Montreal Protocol to an HFC amendment in 2016,â€ and they have subsequently worked intensively during a series of negotiations this year toward consensus on the terms of such an amendment. Next month, countries will gather at the Montreal Protocol Meeting of the Parties in Rwanda for final negotiations on the amendment.
Launch of the Coalition to Secure an Ambitious HFC Amendment
At an event today hosted by Secretary of State John Kerry, senior government officials representing over 100 governments released the â€œNew York Declaration of the Coalition to Secure an Ambitious HFC Amendment.â€ The declaration calls for adopting an ambitious HFC phasedown amendment at the upcoming Meeting of the Parties with an early freeze date for Article 5 countries, in addition to an early first reduction step for non-Article 5 countries.
In addition to the broad support for an ambitious amendment overall, the commitment for an â€œearly freeze dateâ€ is a key element for achieving a strong climate outcome. The freeze date is the year when countries stop increasing the production and consumption of HFCs and begin the process of phasing them down, and it is therefore critical to achieving the emissions reductions associated with an amendment.
New Finance Announcements
In tandem with the declaration for an ambitious amendment, a group of donor countries and philanthropists announced their intent to provide $80 million in assistance to Article 5 countries to implement an amendment and improve energy efficiency.
A group of 16 donor countries â€“ consisting of the United States, Japan, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Italy, Canada, Australia, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, and New Zealand â€“ announced their intent to provide $27 million in 2017 to the Montreal Protocol Multilateral Fund to provide fast-start support for implementation if an ambitious amendment with a sufficient early freeze date is adopted this year. Such funding is one-time in nature and will not displace donor contributions going forward.
Complementing the funding announced by donor countries today, the following group of 19 philanthropists announced their intent to provide $53 million to Article 5 countries to support improvements in energy efficiency: Barr Foundation; Bill Gates; Children’s Investment Fund Foundation; ClimateWorks Foundation; David and Lucile Packard Foundation; Heising-Simons Foundation; Hewlett Foundation; John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation; Josh and Anita Bekenstein; John and Ann Doerr; Laura and John Arnold; Oak Foundation; Open Philanthropy Project; Pirojsha Godrej Foundation; Pisces Foundation; Sandler Foundation; Sea Change Foundation; Tom Steyer; and Wyss Foundation. This support reflects a strong recognition from private philanthropists of the dual benefits associated with taking advantage of the transition to HFC alternatives to also improve energy efficiency.
Together, this funding will enable Article 5 countries to begin developing programs to track and reduce HFCs and help their consumers and businesses realize the net economic benefits from energy efficiency as they transition to HFC alternatives. The announcement from philanthropists represents the single largest private grant ever made in this sector for energy efficiency. Based on our own experience in the United States, this scale of investment could yield billions of dollars in economic benefits for Article 5 countries and help to offset any upfront costs associated with transitioning past HFCs.
Demonstrating that in addition to galvanizing support for an ambitious amendment and providing new resources, the United States is also committed to addressing technical questions associated with phasing down HFCs, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today published the results of a testing program to evaluate the performance of HFC alternatives in rooftop air conditioning units in high ambient temperatures. The testing program was launched in response to questions over whether HFC alternatives can perform well in hot and extremely hot temperatures. The results demonstrate that several viable replacements exist for both HCFC-22 and HFC-410A â€“ two of the most common refrigerants used today â€“ and that these potential replacements perform just as well at high temperatures as todayâ€™s refrigerants. The testing program was conducted at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), and guided by a panel of prominent technical experts from Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Peru, Saudi Arabia, the United States, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).
Building on the announcements in New York, more than 500 national and international companies and organizations and hundreds of sub-national governments are also calling â€“ individually and/or through their associations â€“ for an ambitious amendment to the Montreal Protocol and have issued the following statement:
By avoiding up to 0.5Â°C of warming by the end of the century, a Montreal Protocol hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) phasedown amendment is one of the most significant steps the world can take now to deliver on the goals of the Paris Agreement. Today, we call upon world leaders to adopt in October an ambitious amendment to the Montreal Protocol, including an early first reduction step for Article 2 countries and a freeze date for Article 5 countries that is as early as practicable, and we declare our intent to work to reduce the use and emissions of high-global-warming-potential HFCs and transition over time to more sustainable alternatives in a manner that maintains or increases energy efficiencyâ€Ž.