How the Montreal Protocol can complement the Paris Agreement and help fight climate change
04 Oct 2016 by By Jacques Van Engel, Director of the Montreal Protocol / Chemicals Unit, UNDP
Considered one of the most successful international agreements to date, the Montreal Protocol, if amended, can boost efforts to tackle climate change and protect against further damage to our environment.
Agreed in 1987, the Montreal Protocol has led to a massive reduction in the use of ozone-depleting chemicals, such as the chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and the hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs). It has also, famously, helped begin the process of closing the ozone hole over Antarctica. Now, efforts are underway to expand the Montreal Protocol and further protect the environment and help avert climate change.
At the heart of this issue are (lengthy-named) chemicals, the Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). These chemicals, which essentially replaced CFCs and HCFCs used in air conditioning, refrigeration, and foam insulation, are not ozone-depleting but do have harmful impacts on the global climate. HFCs are very powerful greenhouse gases (GHGs), trapping thousands of times more heat in the atmosphere per unit of mass than CO2. In fact, by some estimates, HFC emissions could constitute up to 19 percent of total GHG emissions (in CO2 equivalent) by 2050 in business-as-usual scenarios.
Yet efforts are underway to tackle this growing problem. Next week high-level representatives will meet in Kigali, Rwanda to try and hammer out an agreement to include HFCs under an ‘expanded’ Montreal Protocol.
It has not been easy to get to this stage. Proposals for HFC amendments were first made in 2009 and were presented at each Meeting of the Parties since then. At the 27th Meeting of the Parties (MOP27) to the Protocol in November 2015, all 197 parties to the Protocol agreed on a "Dubai Pathway" for controlling climate change-inducing HFCs.
The Parties agreed to work together, within the Montreal Protocol, to come up with an HFC amendment in 2016, and they did this by resolving challenges and generating solutions on how to effectively manage HFCs. Significant progress was made during the meetings in 2016 but issues (such as funding for developing countries and the agreement on baselines and phase-out dates) still remain. The hope is that the Parties will manage to bridge the differences and that the consensus will emerge next week.
If the amendment is agreed upon, it will be the most significant agreement to address climate change since the adoption of the Paris climate accord in December 2015 and will be further evidence that the world is committed to tackling this challenge with every available tool and resource.
As the head of UNDP’s Montreal Protocol Unit, I am proud to say that UNDP supports such an expansion and has been working with our partners to make this a reality. Most recently, UNDP, with funds from the Climate and Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants and the US Department of State, assisted nine countries to carry out HFC inventories and to assess their current consumption of HFCs.
The development of inventories will help identify high-emitting sectors and develop options for reducing HFC use. Using similar models as employed by the International Panel on Climate Change, UNDP’s research estimated countries’ HFC emissions, making it possible to track reductions over time. Examples of our follow-up work include:
- In Chile, a demonstration project is piloting a replacement technology for HFCs in supermarkets;
- In the Maldives, UNDP undertook a study on city-wide cooling. This system would entirely avoid HFC use while improving energy efficiency;
- And in Indonesia, a UNDP project is currently showcasing safe and energy-efficient technologies with low global-warming potential in the air-conditioning sector.
UNDP has already helped 120 countries eliminate 67,870 tonnes of ozone-depleting substances per annum, while simultaneously reducing 5.08 billion tonnes of CO2-equivalent greenhouse gas emissions. We’re glad that we can build on this and contribute our part to expanding the Montreal Protocol. As a partner to developing countries, we look forward to working with them to tackle dangerous HFC use.
As U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said, when fighting climate change, we need to take any win we can get. Assessing and quantifying HFC emissions and projecting future emissions is key to our ability to begin reducing them.
During a meeting organized by the United States on the margins of the UN General Assembly, leaders from over a 100 countries called for an ambitious amendment to the Montreal Protocol to phase down HFCs. Donors announced their intent to provide US$80 million of support, should the Kigali meetings be successful. This certainly provides a positive signal for the negotiations that will take place next week, and UNDP is already planning for ways to allocate some of this additional assistance in ways that would have the most impact.