Momentum builds for an ambitious HFC phase-down amendment to the Montreal Protocol

Over 100 countries release New York Declaration, Rwanda and Morocco release a joint statement calling for an ambitious HFC amendment, and $80 million in assistance pledged to countries to implement an amendment and improve energy efficiency.

Three events in New York have shown that there is strong global will to use the Montreal Protocol to phase-down hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).

New York Declaration

The first, hosted by US Secretary of State John Kerry, saw over 100 countries release the “New York Declaration of the Coalition to Secure an Ambitious HFC Amendment”, which calls for adopting an ambitious HFC phasedown amendment at the upcoming Meeting of the Parties, in Rwanda this October.

Senior government officials representing over 100 governments called for an ambitious amendment to the Montreal Protocol to phase-down HFCs with an “early freeze date.” 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.

A White House press release said: “In addition to the broad support for an ambitious amendment overall, the commitment for an ‘early freeze date’ 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.”

Morocco Rwanda Joint Statement

The Governments of Rwanda and Morocco, hosts of the two most important climate meetings this year, held a press conference calling for a strong amendment. Moroccan Environment Minister and COP22 Climate Champion, Hakima El Haite, and Rwanda’s Environment Minister, Vincent Biruta, released the Morocco-Rwanda Joint Statement, which reads:  

“The Kingdom of Morocco and the Government of Rwanda stand united to work with all Parties to the Montreal Protocol to pass an ambitious amendment in October in Kigali.  Doing so would be the most impactful step the world can take this year to achieve the global targets set under the Paris Agreement.”

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Moroccan Environment Minister and COP22 Climate Champion, Hakima El Haite, and Rwanda’s Environment Minister, Vincent Biruta, release Joint Statement

A fast HFC phasedown under the Montreal Protocol can avoid 100 billion tons of CO2-equivalent by 2050 and avoid 0.5⁰C warming by 2100 – nearly 10% of the mitigation needed to stay below the 2⁰C level established as the outer limit in the Paris Agreement last year and is crucial on the path to stay below 1.5⁰C.

The two governments also called for a HFC phase down to be accompanied by energy efficiency gains that will reduce air pollution, save lives and protect health, and prevent damage to crops.

“Energy efficiency in air conditioning provides a powerful opportunity to use saved energy to provide for those without, and the Montreal Protocol could help launch a global energy-efficiency transition,” the Ministers said in a press statement. “By ensuring energy efficiency in the implementation of an HFC phasedown the countries of Africa are partnering together to protect their economies and their populations from climate change.”

$80 million pledged

$80 million USD was pledged by governments and philanthropic organizations to support developing nations (Article 5 countries) implement an ambitious HFC amendment and improve energy efficiency. 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.

Addressing the donor declaration event, US Secretary of State, John Kerry said that the global priority in 2016 was to "see the most ambitious and inclusive climate agreement in history enter into force before the end of this year, but also to take steps that we know we can take that have a profound complementary impact on that agreement."

"We know that the Paris Agreement itself won’t, in and of itself, get the job done. So we need to do more," Mr Kerry said. "And one the single-most important actions that the global community can take is to amend the Montreal Protocol to include an ambitious amendment that phases down the use of hydrofluorocarbons, HFCs."

Durwood Zaelke, President of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development said, “This $80 million fast-start fund not only is a great boost to achieving success in Kigali, but it also ensures that the Parties can double the climate prize by capturing the parallel energy efficiency benefits.”  said  “The fast-start fund is key to protecting the low-lying islands and other countries that are already suffering severe climate impacts.”

A group of 16 donor countries – 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 – 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.

Bill Gates and other philanthropic foundations announced fast-start funding of $53 million to maximize energy efficiency in parallel with an ambitious HFC amendment under the Montreal Protocol.  The list of foundations include: 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.

The announcement from philanthropists represents the single largest private grant ever made in this sector for energy efficiency. The 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.

These announcements come just weeks ahead of the October 9th Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol in Kigali, Rwanda, where an HFC amendment is widely anticipated - although the level of ambition that some countries will bring to the negotiations is still unclear.

A fast HFC phasedown under the Montreal Protocol can avoid 100 billion tons of CO2-equivalent by 2050 and avoid 0.5C warming by 2100.  Improving energy efficiency in parallel with an HFC phasedown could approach 80 to 100 billion tones avoided from appliance efficiency alone, nearly doubling the climate benefits of a phase down alone.  Previous phase outs over similar substances under the Montreal Protocol have catalyzed energy efficiency improvements to appliances using the refrigerants in the range of 30 to 60%.

HFCs, or hydrofluorocarbons, are super greenhouse gases used in refrigerants and air conditioning that can be up to 4,000 times more potent than CO2. In a warming world, the use of air conditioning is projected to grow to 2.5 billion air conditioners by 2050.  Improving energy efficiency of appliances is a win-win, reducing emissions and producing energy savings can be spread to those without.

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