African group helps make progress towards HFC phase down

By Klara Skačanová, Apr 29, 2015, 12:04 4 minute reading

There were high expectations from the international community ahead of the two-day workshop on HFCs and extraordinary Montreal Protocol meeting, held on 20-24 April, especially after India submitted an amendment proposal for HFC phase down. Despite strong opposition from Gulf countries and Pakistan, which hindered the establishment of formal talks on HFCs, thanks to the efforts of the African group, momentum on HFCs was maintained with a view of formal negotiations starting at the next meeting i

Following a mandate given by a decision at the Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol in November 2014, a workshop focusing on HFC management issues and a three-day meeting to discuss aspects regarding the phase down of HFCs under the Montreal Protocol were held on 20-24 April in Bangkok, Thailand. Strong support for an HFC amendment came from a group of 54 African countries, led by Senegal and Zimbabwe, who submitted a declaration calling for formal negotiations on an HFC phase down.

Following the high hopes at the beginning of the week in regards to moving the discussions on HFCs to a formal setting, the meeting ended with an agreement to continue inter-sessional discussions, in an informal manner, to study the feasibility and ways of managing HFCs, with a view to the establishment of a contact group on feasibility and ways of managing HFCs at the 36th Open Ended Working Group Meeting in July 2015.

New HFC amendment proposals on the table vary significantly in degree of ambition

North American countries (USA, Canada and Mexico) and the Federated States of Micronesia have traditionally submitted an amendment proposal on HFCs every year for the last six years. While these efforts have helped raise the issue of increasing emissions of HFCs mainly used as replacements for ozone depleting substances, the proposals were never discussed in a formal setting due to resistance by some developing countries. In 2014 the EU helped move things forward when they submitted a discussion paper trying to address some of the key concerns of these countries, such as the combined HCFC phase out and HFC phase down schedule. During the last meeting in Bangkok, the EU announced that they would soon table a formal amendment to be discussed at the next meeting in July. The 2015 North American proposal submitted before the April meeting has also been amended compared to previous versions slowing down the reduction steps for developing countries while introducing a review clause that would make it possible to change the reduction targets if need be.

Besides the push for an amendment by developing countries, the proposal from India just before the meeting came as a surprise especially as India had always been at the forefront arguing against phasing down HFCs under the Montreal Protocol. Nevertheless despite the excitement regarding India’s move, the suggestions made in the proposal need to be treated with caution as they essentially provide for an increased use of HFCs in developing countries until the consumption and production freeze in 2031 on the basis of average levels between 2028 and 2030. Moreover, following a 15-year grace period suggestions are made for a full compensation for any lost profits from the closure of HFC facilities and full conversion costs for the industry in developing countries.

Resistance by Pakistan, Saudi Arabia deter formal negotiations

Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and other Gulf countries remained in opposition, strongly arguing against any formal discussions on HFCs, maintaining that low GWP (global warming potential) alternatives are not available for very high ambient temperature regions, especially in the air conditioning sector. Pakistan emphasised that they do not want to go for short-term fixes, but need long term solutions, strongly supporting natural refrigerants as the perfect substances. The delegate also insisted there should be no distinction between HFCs and HFOs, since they have the same derivatives and effects on the atmosphere.

Issues regarding patents, technology transfer, capacity building and the need for financial assurances were amongst the highly debated topics at the meeting.

China raises issue of prohibitive international standards

In a presentation at the HFC management workshop, Wang Lei from the China Household Electric Appliances Association highlighted that international standards set very strict limitations on hydrocarbon charges in air conditioning systems, essentially limiting heating performance capacity. A representative from China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection insisted that international standards are one of the biggest barriers to the wider uptake of low GWP refrigerants, such as hydrocarbons, ammonia, and CO2 and called on the Parties to remove such technical obstacles.

Next steps

Parties agreed to continue inter-sessional work on HFCs with a view to establishing a contact group at the next OEWG meeting in Paris in July. Discussions are set to further advance at the Meeting of the Parties to be held in Dubai in November 2015.


By Klara Skačanová

Apr 29, 2015, 12:04

Related stories

Sign up to our Newsletter

Fill in the details below