Phase out climate damaging hydrofluorocarbons- amendment to Montreal Protocol

The world is poised to take the strongest action of this year against climate change, WP, By Chris Mooney July 18 When the world moved to phase out ozone-destroying chlorofluorcarbons, or CFCs, it solved one enormous and urgent environmental problem — but it left behind another. CFCs were bad for the ozone layer and also caused a great deal of global warming to boot. But a key substitute — hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs — spare the ozone layer but are still powerful greenhouse warming agents.

That’s why diplomats and leading national ministers have assembled in Vienna this week for negotiations under the Montreal Protocol, the treaty that led to the phaseout of CFCs and is now aiming its sights at HFCs. If an amendment to the treaty can be adopted this year, advocates say, it could represent the single largest tangible piece of climate progress in all of 2016.

[The Antarctic ozone hole has finally started to ‘heal,’ scientists report]

HFCs are used in refrigerants in car and home air conditioners, as well as in foams, solvents and other products. They are being used more and more — in large part because they are the heirs to the CFC phaseout — and when they get into the atmosphere, they are far more powerful than carbon dioxide at warming the planet.

According to the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development, which focuses on the issue, the “most abundant and fastest growing” of these gases, HFC-134a, remains in the atmosphere for 13.4 years (not nearly as long as carbon dioxide) but causes 1,300 times as much warming as carbon dioxide does over a span of 100 years. One recent study noted that by 2050, if nothing is done, HFC-134a could add 9 to 19 percent to the warming caused by carbon dioxide.

For the broader group of HFCs, one recent study found that HFC emissions as a whole grew from 198 million tons (as measured in carbon-dioxide equivalents) in 2007, to 275 million tons by 2012.

“The HFCs effect now is very small. The problem with the HFCs is it’s the fastest-growing greenhouse gas,” said Veerabhadran Ramanathan, a climate scientist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. “So by banning HFCs, you prevent another disaster downstream. It could be as high as half to one degree [Celsius] by the end of the century.”

Data like these explain why diplomats and leading national ministers have assembled in Vienna this week for negotiations under the Montreal Protocol, the treaty that led to the phaseout of CFCs and is now aiming its sights at HFCs. And signs look positive that a phase-down amendment could happen this year, giving a key boost to climate-change momentum, said Durwood Zaelke, head of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development……….

Granted, an amendment to phase out HFCs is not expected to be formally adopted this month in Vienna. Rather, that is more likely to occur at a second meeting, in October, in Kigali, Rwanda, meeting observers say.

If it is successful, then when the parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change meet in Marrakesh, Morocco, in November to start the process of putting the Paris agreement into action, they will be riding a wave of accomplishment and be able to think rather optimistically about the work before them. Doniger wrote recently that achieving an HFC phaseout would represent “the biggest climate protection achievement of 2016.”

“The ozone treaty has been effectively a climate treaty also,” he said in an interview. “So it can be another win for the climate from the treaty that saved the ozone layer.”

Read more at Energy & Environment:

The world’s clouds are in different places than they were 30 years ago

Scientists think they’ve just pinpointed the key driver of ice loss in Antarctica

The diversity of life across much of Earth has plunged below ‘safe’ levels    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2016/07/18/this-could-do-more-to-save-the-planet-this-year-than-any-other-action/

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