Climate Change is seen by many Governments as one of the key issues of environmental protection. Many Governments support the adoption of a long-term binding agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The first commitment period of the current agreement, the Kyoto Protocol concludes end-2012 and, at present, an extension of the reductions in emissions for developed countries, mandated under the Kyoto Protocol, has not been agreed. This is primarily as a number of developed countries believe that rapidly emerging economies must also make reductions in their greenhouse gas emissions if the atmospheric concentrations of these gases are to be stabilised at a level that will not lead to large global temperature rises.
The emissions of HFCs are included in basket of gases in the Kyoto Protocol. It is estimated that the overall global warming impact of HFC emissions worldwide currently represents less than 2% of the total global greenhouse gases emissions. While HFCs are the preferred solution for many societal needs because of their safety and performance advantages, without action the demand for HFCs will grow due to the replacement of HCFCs as well as the increasing demand for refrigeration and air conditioning, especially in developing countries. Such growth would result in HFCs becoming a more significant source of emissions in the future.
Negotiations on establishing a new international agreement to tackle climate change continue under the auspices of the United Nations Framework on Climate Change (UNFCCC) which holds annual formal meetings as well as a number of working group meetings throughout each year. The 16th Conference of Parties (COP-16) to the United Nations Convention on Climate Change met in Cancun, Mexico from December 7 to 18, 2010.
The “Cancun Agreements” were the key outcomes of the meeting from COP-16 and are detailed in decisions 1/CP.16 and 1/CMP.6.
Two groups, the Ad-hoc Working Group on Long-term Co-operative Action (AWG-LCA) and the Ad-hoc Working Group on the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP) were instrumental in carrying out the negotiations and providing the texts that form the Cancun Agreements.
The outcome of work by the AWG-LCA and the main elements of the Bali Action Plan covers: a shared vision for long-term cooperative action; adaptation; mitigation; finance; technology; and capacity building (Decision 1/CP.16). This decision also extends the mandate of the AWG-LCA to 2011 to carry out the undertakings contained in the decision. It also continues the discussions of legal options to complete an agreed outcome based on the Bali Action Plan. The AWG-LCA has been requested to present the results for adoption at COP-17 in Durban.
The outcome of the work of the AWG-KP (Decision 1/CMP.6) mandates work to continue with the results adopted “as early as possible” to avoid a gap between the first and second commitment periods. Annex I Parties’ pledges for economy-wide emission reduction targets are noted and they are urged to increase the level of ambition. The decision further indicates that emissions trading and the project-based mechanisms under the Kyoto Protocol shall continue to be available, together with measures related to LULUCF. Further work in 2011 will be based on AWG-KP’s draft texts contained in FCCC/KP/AWG/CRP.4/Rev.4.
The two page document is a commitment to continue working on determining the form for the Kyoto Protocol; the text says that there should be no gap between the first and second commitment period, which signals that there will be such a period. The text urges developed nations to increase the level of their ambition in their emissions reduction pledges, and continues emissions trading.
The next Conference of the Parties is scheduled to take place in South Africa, from 28 November to 9 December 2011.
Neither COP-15 in Copenhagen nor COP-16 in Cancun came to decisive outcomes on adopting a comprehensive global agreement to tackle the risks of climate change. However, the outputs from these meetings, the Copenhagen Accord and the Cancun Agreements, can be seen as steps towards such an agreement.
For HFCs, there has been considerable discussion within Working Groups under the Ad-hoc Working Group for Long-term Co-operative Action (AWG-LCA) on future control measures and whether these should be under the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer or the Kyoto Protocol.
Unfortunately, there was no resolution, and the text on HFCs (below) that had been in square brackets for further discussion, did not appear in the final Cancun Agreements:
“Urges Parties, without prejudice to the scope of the Convention and its related instruments, to pursue, under the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, the adoption of appropriate measures to progressively reduce the production and consumption of hydrofluorocarbons”.
How the issue of control of HFCs continues is now open to question. Discussions on the control of HFCs within the Montreal Protocol remain complicated. It was anticipated that the Cancun meeting would enable the Montreal Protocol to start the process of establishing an amendment that would control the production and consumption of HFCs. As the Cancun meeting failed to take such a decision, this leaves the Parties to the Montreal Protocol with the decision whether to take the action on their own behalf or whether to “wait” for a decision from a subsequent climate change meeting, potentially COP-17 in Durban (December 2011). One of the key issues that needs to be resolved is to draw a clear distinction between HFC-emissions as a result of their use and those as by-products in the production of chemicals.
For the climate change negotiations, the discussions on HFCs remain a small sub-set of the complex and wide-ranging negotiations on a global climate change agreement and further discussions on HFCs will be determined by how these overall negotiations progress. It must be noted that, in the aftermath of the Cancun conference, many commentators have expressed interest is pursuing agreements at a disaggregated level, e.g. through sectoral agreements.
It is vital, however, that text, such as that in the paragraph above, is re-established and discussed within the negotiation to enable actions on the control of HFCs to progress. It is expected that the European Union will propose such discussion.
In parallel to these discussions, the review of the F-gas regulation within the European Union is progressing but the discussions concerning the “cap and allocation” and the separate HFC title within the USA has stalled.
EFCTC’s position remains unchanged from above, the need to give industries that are using these important products predictability over their future uses, the need to encourage reductions in emissions and the view that they should remain under the Kyoto Protocol whilst implementation of controls could be managed under the Montreal Protocol.