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Diplomacy in Action

North American HFC Proposal

Daniel A. Reifsnyder
Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs
22nd Meeting of the Parties of the Montreal Protocol
Bangkok,, Thailand
November 8, 2010


Thank you, Mr. Co-Chair. As you have noted, the United States, Canada, and Mexico have jointly proposed an amendment that would phase down the production and consumption of hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs. We have taken this significant action because HFCs are potent greenhouse gases and are being widely adopted as the primary alternatives to CFCs and HCFCs, ozone depleting substances, which the Montreal Protocol is successfully phasing out. And we recognize that the challenge of climate change demands using all available venues and resources. We have made enormous progress under this Protocol in ridding the world of those damaging ozone and climate gases, and we must now coordinate and harmonize our policies and approaches on HFCs both to ensure that we gain the maximum in climate benefit from these efforts and to ensure that we not undo with one hand the positive things we have done with the other.

This HFC amendment proposal builds on efforts undertaken in 2009 by the North American Parties along with the Federated States of Micronesia and Mauritius. The submission of a separate North American HFC amendment this year reflects an important learning process. We have reached out widely and we are grateful for the input we have received. It has helped improve our understanding of the thoughts, concerns, and perspectives that various countries have about this proposal.

The North American proposal builds on a common understanding and commitment to the positive environmental gains that are possible under the Montreal Protocol. The Executive Summary of the 2010 Report of the Scientific Assessment Panel extols the remarkable achievements of this treaty, both in terms of stratospheric ozone protection as well mitigation of damage to the climate system. It recognizes, for example, that the HCFC acceleration is projected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 500 million metric tons of CO2-equivalent per year between 2011 and 2050.

Preserving the climate benefits achieved by phasing out both CFCs and HCFCs is an important reason for addressing HFCs under the Montreal Protocol. The expertise and institutions that have successfully phased out ozone depleting substances have the knowledge necessary to phase down the use of HFCs in the very same sectors. Under this proposal, up to 88 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions could be avoided by 2050. This is equal to more than eight times the emissions reductions called for under the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol. It is imperative that we act now to stave off the growing contribution of HFCs to global climate change.

We stand behind the importance and appropriateness of addressing HFCs here in this forum, but recognize that a number of questions and concerns have been raised with this approach. We fully appreciate that for developing countries the work of phasing out HCFCs is just getting underway. But we are impressed that many Article 5 countries have already submitted their HCFC phaseout management plans (HPMPs) to the Executive Committee. In addition, we were able to in March allay a number of concerns when the Executive Committee reached agreement on HCFC cost guidelines. We note that these guidelines encourage the adoption of low-GWP alternatives, especially on the climate system, and even provide incentives to this end. This landmark agreement in the Executive Committee very much parallels what we want to do with the North American amendment proposal in maximizing the climate benefits of our phaseout of ozone depleting substances.

We have also heard concerns expressed about the availability of alternatives. We believe that in most sectors there are alternatives that can feasibly be adopted in the timeframe established by our HFC amendment proposal. We have developed a series of factsheets that detail the scope of alternatives in four main sectors of HFC use. These have been submitted as information documents for the benefit of the Parties. We believe that information on alternatives is available and is being supplemented as Parties add to the existing body, but acknowledge the desire of some Parties to have further information and reporting from the TEAP to fully inform decisions on HFC-alternatives. In this regard, we would encourage TEAP to provide a simple, easily accessible explanation of the percentage of uses for which alternatives currently exist and the overall extent to those uses.

Last, I want to emphasize that this proposal would support global efforts under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to combat climate change. Let me be clear once again in saying that is not our intention to remove HFCs from the UNFCCC basket of climate gases. The Amendment proposal clearly sets out that obligations of Parties under the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol would remain the same in those fora.

There is a clear linkage between the phaseout of ozone-depleting substances and the adoption of high-GWP alternatives. We feel strongly that by creating the demand for HFCs, the Montreal Protocol is the appropriate institution for phasing down their production and consumption.

We are looking forward to a robust consideration of the North American HFC proposal and are committed to understanding the questions and concerns of all Parties on the details of the amendment. The Montreal Protocol has a history of moving beyond differences of opinion and circumstance in order to achieve environmental gains. It is this ability to achieve consensus that distinguishes the Montreal Protocol in the panoply of multilateral environmental agreements. We hope that we will continue here in Bangkok in this positive spirit. To this end, we urge that a formal contact group be established to include consideration of agenda items 5c, 8, and 9.

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