It’s the last day of the OEWG and time to take a step back and see what we’ve achieved.
Many aspects of the negotiations here have been frustrating, and it’s hard not to feel depressed that while India and China are digging their heels in over the HFC phase-down proposals, HFC use in developing countries is skyrocketing. According to the Scientific Assessment Report presentation yesterday by Professor Ravishankara, HFC emissions could represent up to 20% of all greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and these proposals could save tens of gigatonnes of CO2-equivalent emissions over the coming decades. With frequent warnings that we are heading towards a climatic tipping point, you would have thought that initiatives like these would be welcomed with open arms.
However, while someone I spoke to yesterday qualified progress at these talks as ‘glacial’, it would be wrong to suggest that nothing has moved forward at all. At various stages in the Plenary discussions, negotiators have remarked upon the relatively constructive spirit that has reigned here over the past week. And while some of the bigger developing (or in Montreal Protocol jargon ‘Article 5’) countries have been less than constructive, others such as Georgia have made repeated and energetic interventions supporting an HFC phase-down and acknowledging the intrinsic link between ozone depletion and climate change. The presence of a number of climate ministry representatives is the sign of a subtle but significant shift in attitudes, even among the more recalcitrant countries .
It’s surprising that the link between climate change and ozone depletion is the subject of so much controversy, given the plethora of scientific reports and assessments that have established this.
Having attended last year’s climate conference in Cancun, it’s been a bit surreal to sit here and listen to some delegations defending the UNFCCC and its Kyoto Protocol so forcefully – I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking that it would be nice to see that enthusiasm translate to the climate negotiations. With the next Montreal Protocol meeting taking place just prior to the Durban climate talks no one is expecting any ground-breaking progress this year, but we will be looking to the 25th anniversary meeting of the Montreal Protocol in 2012 to see if it really deserves the accolade of the world’s most successful environmental treaty.
For a more detailed report of the proceedings here at OEWG 31, take a look at the IISD website. And just because in the midst of so much serious debate, it’s important to have a bit of light relief, here’s an example of the coffee art we were treated to every morning as we prepared the day ahead. Pas mal, as they say in Quebec.