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HFC cuts receive US backing

THE US government looks set to back calls for a curtailment of the use of HFC refrigerants in what is being described as a 'phase-down'.
In an email, sent yesterday (May 4), to Marco Gonzalez, executive secretary of the United Nations Environment Program, US deputy assistant secretary of State Daniel Reifsnyder called HFCs 'a very significant further threat to the climate system' and called for a phase-down in the consumption and production of HFCs rather than a phase-out.

While Europe has moved ahead of its obligations under the Montreal Protocol and virtually eliminated the use of ozone-depleting chemicals, the production and use of virgin HCFCs comes to an end this year in Europe, the rest of the world is still dependent to a large extent on these refrigerants.

Under the Montreal Protocol, HCFCs are only now starting the phase-out process. Concern in the new US government is what effect the worldwide adoption of the replacement gases, HFCs, will have on global warming.

Although not ozone-depleting gases, there is some support for HFCs to be included in the framework of the Montreal Protocol. In fact, this issue has been assured of its place on the agenda for the next meeting in November after Mauritius and Micronesia submitted an amendment proposal to this effect prior to the deadline for such submissions on May 4.

In his email to UNEP, Daniel Reifsnyder refers to recent analysis by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of a possible phase down of HFCs.

The EPA analysis assumes a baseline as an average of 2004, 2005 and 2006 consumption with control measures starting in 2012. It proposes reductions of approximately 10% of baseline by 2015, 25% by 2020 and 50% by 2030, culminating in a final step of 15% of the baseline level by 2039, with a 10-year delay between developed and developing country commitments.

Reifsnyder claims support from US industry after two widely attended meetings with stakeholders from the private sector and environmental organisations.

He said 'At the second workshop in particular we discussed the merits of various approaches to HFCs and a number of participants expressed interest in the possibility of amending the Montreal Protocol to provide for a phase down in HFC consumption and production.

He added 'Since then, we have received a number of letters from members of Congress and a number of constituent groups who have urged that we consider amending the Montreal Protocol to provide for a phase down of HFCs.'

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