Monday, September 24, 2007

Historic Montreal Agreement Prelude To Warming Agreement?

Sep 22: Nations signed an agreement to accelerate freeze and phase out of substances known as hydrochlorflurocarbons (HCFCs) under the 20 year-old Montreal Protocol -- the UNEP treaty established in 1987 to protect the Earth's ozone layer from chemical attack. The historic agreement will address the twin challenges of protecting the ozone layer and combating climate change. The decision, including an agreement that sufficient funding will be made available to achieve the strategy, follows mounting evidence that HCFCs contribute to global warming.

HCFCs emerged as replacement chemicals in the 1990s for in air conditioning, some forms of refrigeration equipment and foams following an earlier decision to phase-out older and more ozone-damaging chemicals known as CFCs or chloroflurocarbons. Governments meeting in Montreal, agreed at the close to freeze production of HCFCs in 2013 and move up the final phase-out date of these chemicals by ten years. Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, called the agreement an "important and quick win for combating climate change." He said, "Historic is an often over-used word but not in the case of this agreement made in Montreal. Governments had a golden opportunity to deal with the twin challenges of climate change and protecting the ozone layer -- and governments took it. The precise and final savings in terms of greenhouse gas emissions could amount to several billions of tonnes illustrating the complementarities of international environmental agreements."

UN officials were hopeful that the agreement and the spirit of Montreal would build confidence in the United Nations as a platform for negotiating effective agreements for addressing climate change as the spotlight now moves to New York where, on September 24, the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon is hosting a Heads of State meeting on climate change. The Secretary-General hopes that world leaders will send a powerful political signal to the negotiations in Bali [December 3-14] that "business as usual" will not do and that they are ready to work jointly with others towards a comprehensive multilateral framework for action on climate change for the period after 2012. The event is titled, The Future in our Hands: Addressing the Leadership Challenge of Climate Change [See WIMS 9/14/07].

HCFCs, which also damage the ozone layer but less than CFCs, were always planned as interim substitutes and were due to be phased out in 2030 by developed countries and in 2040 by developing ones. In Montreal six proposals were put before governments from both developed and developing countries. They represented a variety of options including the freeze dates; reduction steps towards a final and accelerated phase out. The final agreement is a combination of the various options proposed by Argentina and Brazil; Norway and Switzerland; the United States; Mauritania, Mauritius and the Federated States of Micronesia.

Under the agreement, productions of HCFCs are to be frozen at the average production levels in 2009-2010 in 2013. Developed countries have agreed to reduce production and consumption by 2010 by 75 per cent and by 90 per cent by 2015 with final phase out in 2020. Developing countries have agreed to cut production and consumption by 10 per cent in 2015; by 35 per cent by 2020 and by 67.5 per cent by 2025 with a final phase-out in 2030. It was also agreed that a small percentage of the original base line amounting to 2.5 per cent will be allowed in developing countries during the period 2030-2040 for "servicing" purposes. Essentially this means that some equipment, coming towards the end of its life such as office block air conditioning units, could continue to run on HCFCs for a few more years if needed.

The 191 Parties to the Montreal Protocol -- 190 countries plus the European Commission -- also made an agreement on financing. The Protocol's financial arm -- the Multilateral Fund -- which to date has spent over $2 billion to assist developing country reductions comes up for renewal next year. The new agreement takes into account the need for "stable and sufficient" funds and the fact that there may be "incremental costs" for developing countries under the accelerated HCFC freeze and phase out. The Governments agreed to a short study by experts to fully assess the likely costs of the acceleration. They will report back early in 2008 and inform parties on the suggested sums required for the renewal funding.

In a release from Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), David Doniger, policy director of the group's Climate Center said, “This week’s deal will sharply cut global emissions, especially by reducing large HCFC increases expected in the next decade from China and India. The Bush administration deserves credit for working with other countries to push for faster cuts in HCFCs. The quicker phase-out will help heal the ozone layer and reduce skin cancer. Reducing HCFCs also helps cut global warming pollution... The Montreal ozone treaty is a model for progress on global warming. It shows that a binding treaty -- with industrial countries taking the lead and with real pollution limits for both developed and developing nations -- can successfully cut global pollution and trigger a clean technology revolution.”

Later in the week, President Bush has invited 17 of the largest greenhouse gas emitting countries to participate in a Meeting of Major Economies on Energy Security and Climate Change, on September 27-28, 2007, in Washington, DC [See WIMS 8/16/07]. The President's meeting is part of the Administration's announced plans on May 31, 2007, to support for "an effort to develop a new post-2012 framework on climate change by the end of 2008 [
See WIMS 6/1/07].

The September 24, UN meeting is being called the largest-ever gathering of world leaders on climate change with a call to forge a coalition to accelerate a global response. Secretary-General Ban told the participants -- top officials from over 150 nations, including 80 heads of State or Government -- at UN Headquarters in New York, “I am convinced that climate change, and what we do about it, will define us, our era, and ultimately the global legacy we leave for future generations.”

Access a release on the Montreal Protocol meeting with extensive links to detailed information (
click here). Access further information on the High-Level meeting including background, special envoys, FAQs and more (click here). Access the complete NRDC release (click here). Access further information on the President's meeting including the invitation letter and list of invitees (click here) and from the WIMS link above. Access a release from the UN on the September 24 meeting (click here). [*Air, *Climate]