Europe Calls for Tougher Limits on Super Greenhouse Gases (HFCs)

May 1, 2015

The European Commission on Thursday called for a tougher U.N. Montreal Protocol to protect the ozone layer by curbing super greenhouse gases known as HFCs, that have a global warming potential thousands of times greater than carbon dioxide.

The European Union has already introduced its own law to curb climate-harming hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), also called “F-gases,” used in fridges and air conditioners.

Under an EU amendment to the protocol, proposed on Thursday, industrialized countries as major users of HFCs, are asked to commit to an ambitious reduction schedule beginning in 2019 and ending in 2034.

Obligations for developing countries and economies in transition would be more flexible.

The European Union is seeking to lead the push for more ambitious action on curbing greenhouse gases ahead of a conference in Paris late this year to seek a new U.N. pact on tackling climate change.

Miguel Arias Canete, European commissioner for climate and energy, called for a global HFC agreement without delay.

“This would send an important signal ahead of the international climate negotiations in Paris later this year,” he said.

After international action more than two decades ago led to the phasing out of ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), HFCs were introduced as industry-supported substitutes.

But they trap up to 23,000 times more heat than carbon dioxide and can remain in the atmosphere for thousands of years.

Earlier this month, India made a surprise decision to phase-down the use of the highly potent gases.

India, which had for years opposed action on HFCs under the protocol, proposed an amendment calling for a 15-year transition period for developing countries to phase down their use of HFCs.

David Doniger, a director at campaign group the Natural Resources Defense Council, noted there were a series of proposals on the table, from the United States, Canada and Mexico as well as India and the European Union.

“These proposals are different, but the differences are readily negotiable. There is a real chance to come to an HFC agreement as early as this fall,” he said.

(Reporting by Barbara Lewis; additional reporting by Valerie Volcovici in Washington, editing by David Evans)

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