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Monday, December 5, 2016

Strategic CSR - HFCs

The article in the url below reveals a recent "sequel" meeting to the COP 21 accord signed in Paris last December:
"When negotiators from nearly 200 countries gathered outside Paris in December for the United Nations summit meeting on climate change, they reached the first agreement to take action on curbing their planet-warming pollution. This weekend in Vienna, with far less attention, negotiators from those same countries neared a deal that many environmentalists have called the most significant action this year to reduce global warming."
What is interesting about the Vienna meeting is not that it is happening (there are many loopholes and weaknesses in the COP 21 that need to be addressed if the agreement is to result in meaningful change), but that it was being done almost secretly. The effect of reduced media coverage (and, as a result, reduced pressure) is what might turn out to make a more effective agreement:
"While the Paris agreement aims to reduce the use of coal and oil, which produce the carbon dioxide emissions that are the chief cause of global warming, negotiators in Vienna pushed ahead on a deal to ban the use of hydrofluorocarbons, chemicals used in air-conditioners and refrigerators. Although they contribute only a small percentage of the world's greenhouse gases, these chemicals, known as HFCs, can trap heat in the atmosphere at levels a thousand times higher than carbon dioxide can, according to published scientific studies. Negotiations to ban HFCs have dragged on for seven years. But the draft language emerging from the Vienna talks could lead to a final deal ready to be signed during an October conference in Kigali, Rwanda."
As such, the Vienna meeting is not designed to amend the COP 21 agreement, but would be an amendment to the Montreal Protocol of 1989 that dealt specifically with gasses (CFCs, in particular) that cause the ozone hole in the Earth's atmosphere. As with many governmental interventions, the Montreal Protocol had a particularly damaging unintended consequence:
"In response, chemical companies developed HFCs, which do not harm the ozone. But the substitute had the wholly unexpected side effect of increasing heat trapped in the atmosphere, which worsened climate change."
The value of amending an existing protocol is that the amendment is immediately binding on all signatory countries:
"An amendment to the Montreal Protocol would have the force of law in almost every country, which could give it more potency than the Paris Agreement, a legal hybrid that lacks the binding force of a treaty. While some portions of the Paris Agreement are legally binding, the specific actions taken by countries to reduce their emissions are voluntary. And there are already questions about whether some countries will follow through on their Paris pledges."
This is particularly encouraging since the COP 21 agreement already looks endangered:
"In Brazil, the impeachment proceedings against President Dilma Rousseff have thrown the fate of her Paris promise into question. Rodrigo Duterte, the new president of the Philippines, said this month that he would not honor the Paris agreement. And in the United States, Donald J. Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, has vowed to 'cancel' the Paris accord."
For additional details of the agreement reached at the Vienna meeting, see:
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A Sequel to the Paris Climate Accord Takes Shape in Vienna
By Coral Davenport
July 23, 2016
The New York Times