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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

HCFCs and climate

This past week, the US and nearly 200 other states agreed to an international treaty that will reduce greenhouse gases. The BBC:
Nearly 200 governments have agreed a faster timetable for phasing out chemicals that deplete the ozone layer and contribute to global warming.

The schedule for eliminating hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) comes forward by 10 years under the agreement signed at a UN meeting in Montreal.
Notice, this came out of the 1980s Montreal Protocol, not the 1990s Kyoto Protocol. While the latter is the climate change agreement, the former was designed to save the ozone layer from chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).

Still, the deal is remarkable. It is arguably the most meaningful environmental agreement this decade. Even developing countries have agreed to ban HCFCs. And there are credible estimates suggesting that this deal will be up to twice as effective as the Kyoto accord in preventing emissions of greenhouse gas emissions. HCFCs are bad.

Radoslav Dimitrov, a Political Science professor at University of Western Ontario was at the meeting (reporting for Earth Negotiations Bulletin) and his take is somewhat more cynical. I think it's safe to say he's talking about the US here:
One major country displayed particular enthusiasm about taking climate-related action outside of the climate process. Reportedly, their delegation had “marching orders” to bring climate into the ozone process before an upcoming high-level meeting on climate change next week, and thus draw attention away from the UNFCCC....It also provides an easy way to take action on climate change and shift the focus away from the Kyoto Protocol.
The UNFCCC is the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Kyoto is a protocol to that agreement.

Oh, Dimitrov also reminds readers that the Montreal Protocol has NOT solved the problem of ozone depletion:
The ultimate weakness of the process is that, despite all political successes in international cooperation, the ecological problem of ozone depletion has not been solved. As the scientific presentations during the meeting revealed, current stratospheric ozone levels remain low, the Antarctic hole is at its worst, and skin cancer cases are expected to multiply several times in the next decade.
The meeting did not really address methyl bromide, which depletes ozone, nor the problem of illegal trade.

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