The countries of the world agreed earlier this week to work together in 2016 to use the Montreal Protocol to eliminate the global warming contribution from one of the six main greenhouse gases by phasing down refrigerants called hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs. A long list of details are scheduled to be negotiated during a series of meetings next year, both at an extraordinary Working Group meeting and an extraordinary Meeting of Parties. The Montreal Protocol is the only UN treaty where all 197 countries of the United Nations participate. Many parties including the U.S., Mexico, Canada, island States, and the 54 countries of the Africa Group wanted to move faster with the details this week, but Gulf States and India demanded delay on details until after COP 21 in Paris next month, raising a red flag about their tactics in Paris.
If there’s a silver lining to this slow deliberation, it’s that the parties will be able to implement a strict phase down schedule much faster than usual. The market for superior substitutes is on the march and will be sweeping up the slow-moving companies. As Jeem Lippwe, Deputy Permanent Representative of the Federated States of Micronesia to the United Nations, who led his country’s delegation said, “After seven years of efforts, we have at last agreed to amend the Montreal Protocol next year to phase down HFCs. This is a significant win for the climate system and for the momentum of multilateral climate cooperation heading into Paris.” HFCs are increasing 10-15% per year, making them the fastest growing greenhouse gas in much of the world. They were once thought necessary to replace ozone-depleting substances like CFCs and HCFCs, which are now being phased out. A study by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory concluded that currently available alternatives to HFCs performed as well as or better than in the hottest climates, such as the Gulf.