HFCs: towards a phase-down schedule?

The HFC issue, i.e. the replacement of CFCs and HCFCs covered by the Montreal Protocol, by HFCs, which are potent greenhouse gases covered by the Vienna Convention and the Kyoto Protocol, is moving fast. A seminar held in Switzerland in July, followed by a meeting of UNEP, prepared the next United Nations Conference on the ozone layer (Sharm Al Sheikh, Egypt, November 2009). An amendment put forward by Mauritius and Micronesia, proposed to organize a phase-out schedule for HFCs, beginning in 2012 and ending in 2030. It was not accepted, essentially because this kind of decision should be taken under the auspices of international discussions on climate change. However, various positions were presented, which will imply imminent decisions. An article by PNAS (see the Web site of the IIR) presented a dramatic increase in HFC emissions until 2050 in developing countries, comparing it with CO2 emissions scenarios. Even if these comparisons are not fair (we cannot reasonably have an increase in HFC emissions in these countries without a simultaneous increase in CO2 emissions), many organizations used some of its figures in order to point out the real danger of such an increase. Most developed countries try to implement measures on HFCs because of their impact on climate change: Europe already has its F-gas regulation, aimed at reduction thanks to less leakage and its regulation on mobile air conditioning; USA is discussing that issue within the government; Australia proposed new policy on HFCs and other greenhouse gases… However, even if developed countries generally agree to use the means of the Montreal Protocol (dedicated teams in developing countries, technical expertise through TEAP reports…), they would like to maintain a link with the global negotiations on climate change, as also suggested by the G8 declaration (July 8, 2009). Some developing countries would like to organize phase-out or phase-down schedules similar those of HCFCs, while others would like to phase out HCFCs before implementing a schedule for HFCs. The HFC issue will be presented during the next UN Conference on ozone depletion and also during the next UN Conference on climate change, which will be held in Copenhagen, Denmark, in December 2009. Even if it the general result of this conference is difficult to predict, new measures on HFCs will probably be approved, at least a limitation on financing new projects with HFCs through international funds and mechanisms. We have to promote other solutions, both in developed and developing countries. The IIR has been involved in alternative technologies for many years. It has the expertise, the credibility and the neutrality needed. We are in the best position to do this.