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Posts Tagged ‘HFC-23’

It would be nice to be able to report that negotiations are moving forward apace but, unfortunately, they’re not.

This morning, we sat through another lengthy discussion about the proposals put forward by the North America countries and Micronesia to phase out HFCs. While supportive delegations such as the EU agreed with the US that a phase-out is a moral imperative and argued that it would help drive technical innovation, China and India spent the entire session playing semantic ping-pong.

This is what a 'side event' can look like (c) EIA

Arguments of varying degrees of sophistication were trotted out to demonstrate that the Montreal Protocol is not the forum to deal with an HFC phase-out, because there is no legal footing for it to do so (a claim heavily contested by many Parties here); because it would undermine the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol (!), or because not enough scientific research has been carried out into alternatives to HFCs (it’s worth noting that both China and India blocked subsequent attempts to remedy this).

What it all boils down to is protection of vested interests – both China and India are defending the commercial interests of their domestic F-gas industries (which, lest it be forgotten, have already earned hundreds of millions of euros for HFC-23 offsets under the UN’s Clean Development Mechanism – and, to a certain extent, political grandstanding and positioning for the global climate talks. It’s very frustrating to sit here and listen to the debate go around and around in circles when an HFC phase-out is clearly the most immediate and cost-effective prospect for combating climate change in the short-term.

Mealtimes here are very perfunctory – in fact, we haven’t sat down to a hot meal since Sunday – all the more so as food and drink are strictly forbidden in the meeting rooms (a rule enforced by zealous security guards on every corner). So, after a five-minute refuelling stop, we headed to a ‘side event’ (UN jargon for a short workshop) on the European Union’s F-gas Regulation. This was organised by the European Partnership for Energy and the Environment (EPEE), the rather misleading name of the European Heating Cooling and Refrigeration Industry’s trade association, based in Brussels.

At the event, EPEE representatives and the refrigerant manufacturer Daikin sang the praises of the F-Gas Regulation, which essentially relies on weak controls to prevent leakage during installation, operation and disposal of equipment. Quite apart from the consideration that taking a containment and recovery approach to HFCs (rather than mandating a phase out) is simply storing up trouble for the future, it’s pretty obvious that the F-Gas Regulation in its current form is simply unworkable. The fact is that, by the industry’s own admission, the Regulation is not being taken seriously.

We expect the F-gas industry to fight tooth and nail to prevent any ambitious changes to the Regulation, which is currently under discussion. As far as we’re concerned, supporting a global phase-down of HFCs in the Montreal Protocol – which the EU is doing very forcefully here – goes hand-in-hand with a convincing domestic policy on HFCs – which the EU does not yet have.

Natasha Hurley

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The meeting resumed today with the US, Canada, Mexico and Micronesia responding to a number of questions on scientific, legal, financial and technological issues raised by Parties concerning their proposals to amend the Montreal Protocol to phase out HFCs.

After much debate, it was decided to resume the discussion in plenary session tomorrow and consider the establishment of an informal contact group at a later point. The proponents of the phase-out proposals expressed strong disappointment about the informal nature of the contact group – the proposal has been on the table for three years now but has been kicked into the long grass as many times. The informal nature of the contact group means its discussions will not be formally reported in the proceedings of the meeting, just one of the stalling tactics being employed by India, China and others who are opposing any HFC measures under the Montreal Protocol.

The OEWG in session on Monday (c) EIADuring lunch, Greenpeace held a side-event to present a new paper on the benefits of basing policies on a 20-year global warming potential (GWP) measure, rather than the current standard of 100-year GWP. GWP measures the potency of a greenhouse gas over a specific period of time, relative to CO2, which has a GWP of one. So, for example, the GWP of HFC-134a (the most commonly used HFC) is 1,430 – so it is 1,430 times more potent than CO2. The GWP measure is independent of atmospheric concentration – so we’re not saying that HFC-134a is currently causing 1,430 times more global warming than CO2, but it would if it was present in the atmosphere at the same concentration.

The timescale, however, is important because while CO2 has an atmospheric lifetime of several centuries, most HFCs remain in the atmosphere for just 10-20 years. The average lifetime of the HFCs in use today is 21.7 years. This means that the 100-year GWP does not fairly reflect their potency, since it is spread out over 100 years, while in actuality all the damage is done while it is present in the atmosphere, which in the case of HFC-134a is 14 years. The 20-year GWP of HFC-134a is 3,380 – more than double its 100-year GWP.

Why is this important in the context of climate change? In 2009, NASA’s eminent climate scientist, Dr. James Hansen, warned that the “climate is nearing dangerous tipping points… ”. Tipping points are abrupt, non-linear, unpredictable changes – the point of no return where there will be little we can do to prevent catastrophic and irreversible climate change. We don’t know when this will happen but it could be reached within a few decades, so efforts to prevent short-term climate forcing are really important.

The best available prospect for mitigating climate change in the short-term is undoubtedly a phase-out of HFCs under the Montreal Protocol. Using 20-year GWPs shows clearly the massive climate impact of HFCs, and is also highly relevant in the context of the increasing use of so-called ‘moderate’ GWP HFCs, such as HFC-32. Daikin and Panasonic are describing their new HFC-32 air conditioning technology as ‘climate-friendly’, as the GWP of HFC-32 is 675, significantly less than the most commonly used HFC. But over a 20-year period, HFC-32 has a GWP of 2,330 – how can this be climate-friendly?Clare Perry

Clare Perry

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This year has certainly got off to a flying start, with all of last year’s campaigning on the HFC-23 issue about to come to a head. This Friday, European Countries will vote on a proposed regulation to ban the use of HFC and other industrial gas credits in Europe’s carbon markets from January 2013. If successful this regulation will change the face of the world’s largest carbon market and end the scandalous subsidising of Chinese and Indian chemical companies by European consumers.

Credit EIA

Fin at the open hearing at European Parliament last Wednesday

In a final attempt to ensure the vote goes well Clare Perry and myself took a day trip to Brussels last Wednesday to speak at an open hearing in the European Parliament. The event brought together high level speakers, politicians and policy makers in order to give a rounded view on the future of these credits, with a presentation from Connie Hedegaard, the European Commission’s Climate Commissioner.

EIA together with UK NGO Sandbag was invited to speak on behalf of civil society and we took the opportunity to remind the audience that removing HFC-23 credits from carbon markets would help clean development in poorer countries. Despite a general acceptance of the need to restrict these credits some companies with vested financial interests in the projects would like to see the timing of the ban delayed to allow many million more fake credits onto Europe’s carbon markets. We warned how this will undermine Europe’s international climate negotiating position.

After quite a heated debate there were a few moments to discuss issues with the audience and catch up with other colleagues, then a mad dash back to Gare to Midi, a quick stop to stock up on cheese and chocolate, then onto the train home.

Despite the success of the day the outcome of the vote is far from decided. We urgently need to let European Ministers know that their citizens are watching.

Bob explains the carbon credit scam. Credit Yasmeen Ismail.

Bob explains the carbon credit scam.

In an attempt to make this quite complex issue a little bit more digestible one of our hugely talented supporters Yasmeen Ismail (www.rhumbaba.co.uk) has created a short cartoon, with Ronni Ancona very kindly doing the voice over.  Please help us gain another victory for the environment by watching the clip and going to the ‘what can I do’ section of our website.

Fionnuala Walravens

Fionnuala Walravens

Global Environment Campaign Team Leader


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Montreal Protocol annual Meeting of the PartiesThis chilly weather is certainly a shock to the system and doubly so given last week I was in balmy Bangkok attending the Montreal Protocol annual Meeting of the Parties. But it’s definitely not as glamorous as it might sound, arriving in on Sunday barely gave us time to get over the seven hour time difference before the conference kicked off on Monday morning. And, although the weather outside was glorious, temperatures inside the conference centre required scarves and jackets- thanks to heavy use of air-conditioning! The ironies of such enormous reliance on ozone depleting refrigerants at a conference aimed at protecting the ozone layer certainly wasn’t lost on us!

On the Agenda were several very important issues which give the Montreal Protocol the chance to really secure its position as the world’s most effective environmental treaty. Notably: two proposals to phase-down global HFC use; a decision to address HFC-23 emissions not currently covered under the UN’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM); action to maximize direct transitions from HCFCs, a powerful ozone-depleting substance (ODS), to climate-friendly refrigerants rather than HFCs; as well as a program for recovery and destruction of ODS “Banks”-this refers to the ODS that remains in equipment at the end of its life. These cost-effective actions have the potential to avoid emissions of hundred of billions of tonnes of CO2 equivalent over the next four decades.

Montreal Protocol annual Meeting of the PartiesHowever, despite the momentous climate saving opportunities facing country delegates at the meeting, there was significant opposition to them from three advanced developing countries; India, China and Brazil. Together they managed to quash meaningful discussions on HFC phase-downs and HFC-23. Sadly, there wasn’t much progress on ODS banks either. However, despite a lack of agreement on these issues there was clearly growing support from action on HFCs.

Right at the end of the meeting a Declaration signed by 91 countries was submitted. Signatories stated their commitment to ensuring that the phase-out of ODS by the Montreal Protocol doesn’t result in the widespread adoption of HFCs. Clearly this is a big step forward and a clear signal to the UN climate talks that the Montreal Protocol is ready to assist in meeting the climate change challenge.

We were also able to inform countries about the increased risk of illegal trade in ODS, presenting our findings from a project we have been working with the United Nations Environment Programme to assess the risk of illegal trade in HCFCs. Our work has revealed widespread and growing smuggling of HCFCs and evidence that this problem is only likely to get worse.

Our colleagues from EIA’s Washington DC office also joined us so we seized on this rare opportunity to take time out to discuss ideas and strategise about how we can move forward. It’s not often that we get the chance to meet up, as most of the year we chat over the phone or via email, so it was great to be able to sit down and brainstorm.

So, all in all despite some missed opportunities by countries at this meeting, we at EIA made the most of it ensuring our message went out far and wide and I think there were some definite glimmers of hope for the future.

Fionnuala Walravens

Fionnuala Walravens

Global Environment Campaigner

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Clare Perry reports:

EIA meet with MEPs at the European Parliament last weekLast week we had a busy couple of days in Brussels. On Tuesday we spent the entire day in the European Parliament with our colleagues from CDM Watch. We met with several Members of the European Parliament and other officials working in the Parliament that look into technical and scientific issues for MEPs. At the end of the day, feet aching from walking the endless corridors of the building (getting lost more than once!) we were really happy with the progress made.

We’ve ecountered some real enthusism from MEPs to tackle the issue of HFC-23 and there are plans afoot to raise awareness of the issue and seek to swift resolution in the European Emissions Trading Scheme. We’ve been in a very interesting NGO strategy meeting with a large number of  NGOs that work on CDM/carbon market issues.

Carbon credit scam? Copyright EIAFin gave a presentation of the HFC-23 campaign to date and there were discussions on N2O, biofuels, waste and coal – all of these areas are posing serious problems in terms of attaining true emission reductions under the UN Kyoto Protocol. With the EU taking the lead on pushing for a truly sustainable climate, Brussels was definitely the place to be and we’ll no doubt be back there soon.

For further information on the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) click here and here.

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This week our blog features our Global Environment Campaign, Fin Walraven’s comments on the latest developments:

It’s been a busy few weeks here as we’ve started to look at a new area of work, involving the carbon markets. All quite complicated I’m afraid-would you expect anything else from the Global Environment Campaign!?

So in a nut shell here’s the story…..under UN Climate talks European companies have to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. They can use carbon markets to ‘offset’ part of these reductions, whereby they pay factories in developing countries such as India and China to stop emitting greenhouse gases instead. In theory this can be a good thing as it promotes clean, sustainable development in developing countries. However the reality, sadly, is sometimes quite different. Under the European carbon markets companies, including power suppliers such a British Gas, EDF and Endel, have been shelling out huge sums of money to factories in developing countries to get them to destroy a very potent greenhouse gas called HFC-23. This is a waste gas emitted in the production of refrigerant chemicals.

Here’s where the madness becomes clear. It costs factories about 12 pence for every carbon dioxide equivalent tonne of the HFC-23 waste gas they destroy but European companies can pay up to £10 for every tonne of carbon dioxide they need to offset. This is outrageous as it’s we, the consumer, who has to pay for this via increased electricity bills. Clearly it’s time to rethink how we fund the destruction of these HFC-23 waste emissions; it’s pretty obvious that the carbon markets are not the right place for it. So EIA has decided to do something about it. Two weeks ago I travelled over to Brussels to tell Members of the European Parliament about this scandal and they were incensed by what we said. The next step is to get a review of Europe’s carbon markets started and then work towards removing these useful HFC-23 credits from these markets so they can be dealt with in a much more cost-effective and sensible manner…watch this space!

Facing the F-gas challenge, read more.

Click here to find out about our work on UK supermarket emissions of HFCs

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