Ozone Meeting Begins Discussion on HFC Phase-Down

Launch of the “Transition to CFC-free inhalers Awareness Package for National Ozone Units in developing countries.” L-R: Patrick McInerney, (Australia); Maqsood Akhtar, (Pakistan); Marco González, Ozone Secretariat Executive Secretary; Rajendra Shende, UNEP OzoneAction; and Helen Tope, Co-Chair Medical Options Committee, Australia.20 July 2009: The 29th meeting of the Open-ended Working Group (OEWG 29) of the parties to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer convened in Geneva, Switzerland, from 15-18 July 2009. Discussions at OEWG 29 were dominated by consideration of a proposal submitted jointly by the Federated States of Micronesia and Mauritius (UNEP/OzL.Pro.WG.1/29/8) to amend the Montreal Protocol to include destruction of ozone depleting substance (ODS) banks and phase-down of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).

Although HFCs do not deplete the stratospheric ozone layer, they have high-global warming potential (GWP) and therefore pose a significant threat to the climate system. In its attempts to limit ODS, particularly hydrochloroflourocarbons (HCFCs), the Montreal Protocol, through finance provided by the Multilateral Fund, is predicted to cause a dramatic increase in the use of HFCs, as they are a common HCFC alternative. The proposal proponents pointed to the successful history of the Montreal Protocol in phasing-out consumption and production of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and in regulating the industries that manufacture HFCs.

Many parties were reluctant to support the proposal to phase-down HFCs under the Montreal Protocol, because they are included in the basket of GHGs being considered under the climate negotiations, expected to conclude in Copenhagen this December. At the beginning of meeting, debate focused on the relative merits of housing HFCs under the Montreal Protocol or the UNFCCC. However, by the close of the OEWG 29, most parties agreed the range of possibilities for phasing-down HFCs would likely involve action under both fora.

If eventually agreed, the HFC amendment may represent the first emission reduction target for developing countries for a non-ozone depleting GHG. Eight additional small island developing States added weight to the amendment proposal by announcing they were co-sponsoring it during the close of OEWG-29.

The amendment proposal will be considered again by parties at the 21st session of the meeting of the parties to the Montreal Protocol, scheduled to convene in Port Ghalib, Egypt, from 4-8 November 2009. [IISD RS meeting coverage]