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Countries eye deal to curb climate-harming HFCs

Parties to the Montreal Protocol have come closer to a deal to further control potent global warming-inducing chemicals; the move that would provide a powerful push to help achieve the Paris Agreement on climate change.


Thanks to the Protocol, countries have already eradicated chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and are on track to eradicate hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HFCs) – climate-harming chemicals found in refrigeration, air conditioning and foams. HFCs are often used as a replacement for CFCs and have a global warming effect up to thousands of times greater than carbon dioxide.


At meetings held in Vienna on 15-23 July, the 197 parties to the Montreal Protocol considered potential freeze dates for HFCs and schedules for reducing their production and consumption in both developed and developing countries, and forwarded them for further discussion in future meetings scheduled for October.


Countries agreed on a menu of solutions to specific challenges. They furthermore agreed on a study to examine the climate benefits of a phase-down of HFCs and to examine the finance needed to enact it.


Action taken under the Protocol – which is administered by UN Environment - has enabled the ozone layer to heal by an area equivalent to the size of India, UN Environment Deputy Executive Director Ibrahim Thiaw told delegates during his opening statement in Vienna.


“It is no accident that the Protocol is quoted again and again as an example of what can be achieved when 197 parties put their minds to it,” he noted.


Yet while they do not harm the ozone directly, the most commonly used HFCs hold a global warming potential that is thousands of times greater than carbon dioxide.


In November 2015, countries therefore agreed on a ‘Dubai Pathway’, whereby solutions would first be generated to challenges before an amendment to curb HFCs can be finalised.


Countries are “well on their way” to achieving “a very big win” in the fight against climate change, said US State Secretary John Kerry at the meeting.


The Paris Agreement commits states to limiting the increase in global temperature, compared to pre-industrial levels, to two degrees by 2100 and to pursue efforts to limit this increase to 1.5 degrees. An amendment to the Montreal Protocol to phase down HFCs could save a potential 0.4 degrees of global warming by the end of the century.


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