UPDATE (24 September):
Here is the public summary of the 19th Meeting of the Parties of the Montreal Protocol from the Environmental Bulletin, a subscription newsletter I receive on international environmental negotiations. You can find more here.
With almost 95% of ODS successfully eliminated under the Montreal Protocol, many believe the Protocol is ready and able to take on new challenges. The Multilateral Fund has long been recognized as a flexible, responsive financial mechanism, key to the successful implementation of the Montreal Protocol. Among other things, the Fund is mandated to provide finance for the transition from CFCs to HCFCs. Some pragmatic observers feared that if the Fund was not mandated to finance a new challenge, such as the phase out of HCFCs, it would run the risk of not being replenished, or being merged into the GEF. Some parties suggested that the Montreal Protocol should explore synergies with the chemicals conventions, and many speculated this could lead to the Fund being tapped by other related Conventions.
Six years ago, when it was observed that the production and consumption of HCFCs in India and China mirrored that of CFCs historically, and when the idea of accelerated phase-out was first raised, it met with strong opposition from developing countries. At MOP-19, what took most delegates by surprise was how quickly events unfolded. Various factors were conducive to a convergence of views at MOP-19. China, the biggest country producer of HCFCs and main opponent of accelerated phase-out, showed more flexibility than some expected, and secured commitments on funding and access to alternatives in return. The Russian Federation also noted the difficultly of meeting an accelerated phase-out schedule, particularly because it is not eligible for support from the Multilateral Fund, but did not actively oppose the acceleration. Industrialized countries stressed the high global warming potential of HCFCs and the climate benefits of their elimination. The US displayed particular enthusiasm for taking climate-related action outside of the climate regime. According to some, their delegation had “marching orders” to bring climate into the ozone process before the upcoming high-level meetings in Washington and New York on climate change. More skeptical observers suggested that the agreement may also serve to draw attention away from the UNFCCC.
With incentives for action in place on all sides of the negotiating table, an agreement on the acceleration of the HCFC phase-out took “center stage” – albeit behind closed doors. The contact group met throughout the week and most delegates remained tight-lipped about the details until the entire package was agreed. The decision accelerates the phase-out of HCFC production and consumption by a full decade, moving the commitment for phase-out by Article 2 parties from 2030 to 2020, and for Article 5 parties from 2040 to 2030. While the significance of the deal was celebrated by most delegates, China, as one of the parties most affected by the agreement, voiced caution and noted that success is contingent on the availability of alternatives that are ozone and climate friendly, safe and economically viable. Environmental NGOs also repeatedly pointed out the need to ensure that HCFCs are not replaced by substances with high global warming potential or other environmental risks.
An agreement on HCFCs was therefore timely and served several interests. Many developing country delegates saw new policy commitments on HCFCs as a way to ensure continued availability of funding to Article 5 parties. Industrialized countries saw an agreement on accelerated phase-out of HCFC as an easy win for climate, through action by both developed and developing countries. According to some delegates, the Montreal Protocol commitments for an accelerated phase out of HCFCs will actually serve to address climate change more than ozone depletion. Some statistics indicate that the HCFC phase-out could result in reductions of between 18 and 30 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent emissions, which is up to five times the reductions under the Kyoto Protocol in its first commitment period.