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Montreal Protocol Countries Make Key Decisions in Rome

This article originally appeared in the November-December 2019 issue of Accelerate Magazine.

At MOP 31, 171 nations grappled with improving enforcement, monitoring banned gases, financing the MLF, ensuring a sustainable cold chain, and more.

In his message to the 31st Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol (MOP 31), held from November 4 to 8, Pope Francis noted that the Montreal Protocol was an example of how cooperation can “achieve important outcomes, which make it simultaneously possible to safeguard creation.”

The meeting was held in the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, Rome, an ideal location, not only because of the importance of the cooling sector in avoiding food waste and thereby addressing global hunger, but also because Italy is quite the hub of natural and efficient cooling technologies that do not use climate-warming hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).

Delegates representing 171 countries negotiated a number of key issues, with the following salient points emerging during the meeting:

Significant new CFC-11 emissions show it is critical to ensure robust systems are in place to better enforce the Montreal Protocol.

Following scientific reports revealing that significant new global emissions of CFC-11, and a subsequent Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) exposé pinpointing its illegal production and use to China, China reported stepping up law enforcement and putting in place systemic changes to prevent new CFC-11 production and use. An update from the Scientific Assessment Panel showed preliminary data indicating reductions in CFC-11 emissions in 2018 and 2019. Negotiators spent significant time discussing the scope of actions at the Montreal Protocol needed to discover and prevent illegal production or consumption of controlled substances.

There were differences of opinion on whether the contact group on this issue should be forward-looking and review institutional matters and processes, or should it focus more on accountability and unanswered questions about the illegal production and emissions. Protracted discussions and negotiations covered gathering more information on the current situation, analyzing institutional processes to avoid similar situations in the future, impugning non-compliance and finding constructive ways forward.

Unfortunately, key conversations on how to undertake a comprehensive fitness check of the Montreal Protocol were not finished in Rome and are expected to continue next year. We hope that going forward countries take a serious look at the current monitoring, reporting, verification requirements, and procedures of the Montreal Protocol, which will be a key driver of sustained ozone and climate protection over the coming decade.

Continued financial and technical contributions are vital.

The Montreal Protocol relies heavily on inputs from its scientific and technical assessment panels to advise Parties on key areas that concern their decision making and priorities. This includes the replenishment of the Multilateral Fund (MLF), the financial arm of the Montreal Protocol, which was also high on the agenda at MOP 31. Countries agreed on the terms of reference for the study to be carried out by the Technology and Economic Assessment Panel (TEAP) on the 2021-2023 replenishment of the MLF. The study will help guide determination on the overall contributions needing to be made to the MLF for the next three year period for the implementation of the Montreal Protocol.

Additionally, countries made progress on requesting that the three Assessment Panels to the Montreal Protocol prepare quadrennial assessment reports that include existing and emerging challenges by the end of 2022.

These challenges include maintaining and enhancing energy efficiency, in light of the HFC phase down, while also looking at ozone layer depletion, interactions between ozone and climate, the effects of changes in the ozone layer to human health and ecosystems, as well as alternative technologies to the controlled substances.

Continued scientific and technical contributions, as well as a robust replenishment of the MLF, are imperative to ensure that control of synthetic gases harmful to our ozone and climate is actually implemented on the ground.

The Montreal Protocol and cooling sector must play an even greater role in broader climate change efforts.

About one-third of all food produced globally for human consumption is either lost or wasted, severely impacting farmers’ incomes and food prices, wasting land, water and energy, as well as contributing to climate change. Recognizing this, the “Rome Declaration on the Contribution of the Montreal Protocol to Food Loss Reduction through Sustainable Cold Chain Management,” called for “strengthening cooperation and coordination between Governments, the institutions of the Montreal Protocol, the specialized agencies of the United Nations, existing private and public initiatives and all relevant stakeholders to exchange knowledge and promote innovation of energy-efficient solutions and technologies that reduce the use of substances controlled by the Montreal Protocol in the development of the cold chain, thereby contributing to the reduction of food loss and waste.” This is a great opportunity for ensuring that the global cold chain uses future-proof sustainable technologies incorporating natural refrigerants.

In the margins of the negotiations, industry and NGOs outlined ways for the cooling sector to contribute further to climate mitigation. EIA released a new report – “Search, Reuse & Destroy: Initiating Global Discussion to Act on a 100 Billion Ton Climate Problem” – with action ideas on preventing emissions of rapidly growing super-pollutant fluorinated gases in “banks,” which is the single greatest near-term strategy to achieve faster and deeper emission reductions: Recent findings on significant illegal production and use of CFC-11 further underscore the need to prevent new and existing banks from being emitted into the atmosphere.

The Kigali Amendment, which came into force on January 1, 2019, is expected to avoid 0.4°C of future global warming by the end of the century by cutting HFC by more than 80% over the next 30 years. It is unfortunate that only 88 parties (87 countries plus the EU) have ratified the Kigali Amendment to date, while youth around the world have been striking for climate action every Friday for months and current climate pledges and action are insufficient, by a wide margin, to address the worsening climate crisis and meet the global target of containing warming below 1.5 °C.

Countries must heed the clarion call from the Executive Director of the UN Environment Program, Inger Andersen, “Nothing short of universal ratification of the Kigali Amendment is acceptable.”

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