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Failure of 'Super Greenhouse Gas' Deal Raises Stakes in Copenhagen

By David Sassoon

Nov 11, 2009

Roberts attended the meetings in Port Ghalib and provided SolveClimate with daily dispatches of the proceedings. On the second day of the meeting, he reported that China, India and a few other countries refused to even open discussion on the text that dealt with HFCs. It was later that day that the U.S. was forced to retreat.

"John Thompson, a senior member of the United States delegation to the Montreal Protocol, announced with reluctance that that the North American countries will not push for an amendment of the Montreal Protocol to implement the phase out of hydrofluorocarbons at the current meeting now going on in Port Ghalib, Egypt," Roberts reported.

The U.S. delegation, led by Daniel Reifsnyder, a deputy assistant secretary in the State Department, shifted to Plan B: It pressed for a strong "decision" from the assembled nations instead, hoping for binding actions that would set the stage for amending the Montreal Protocol in 2010. But that goal, too, proved beyond reach.

In the lead up to the Egypt meetings, the U.S. delegation was handicapped by less than full support from the administration. Last spring, President Obama's newly installed climate team balked at introducing an amendment the ozone team was championing, wanting more time to study the issue. The internal rift was smoothed over but never quite resolved.

The U.S. did eventually introduce a Montreal Protocol amendment, and the ozone team requested additional State Department staff to generate support for it from foreign governments. The request was not granted. Further, both Roberts and Zaelke said that neither Obama nor Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made the handful of phone calls needed for the amendment to succeed.

HFCs were also kept off the agenda in recent international climate talks in Bangkok, as negotiators had their hands full dealing with CO2. And with almost no media covering the meetings in Port Ghalib, it became easy for China and India to adopt an uncompromising "no deal" posture and send the HFC question to Copenhagen unresolved. It now becomes a bargaining chip in a larger and more complex negotiation.

"Another year of no action on HFCs adds a huge burden to the atmosphere," Roberts told SolveClimate by phone from Egypt. "And the delay makes it that much more costly to phase it down another year from now."

But the Montreal Protocol meeting did yield two binding decisions that Roberts says are important steps forward in climate protection. The parties agreed to stop paying for the substitution of ozone destroying substances if high-global warming potential gases such as HFCs are used; and they escalated actions to destroy existing banks of gases — as much as 6 gigatons of CO2-equivalent HFCs over the next five years — to prevent their release into the atmosphere.

Still, negotiators and insiders are concerned with the lack of progress on HFCs. Immediate action under the Montreal Protocol would prevent their manufacture to begin with, and it would offer a cheaper pathway to alternatives. HFCs handled in a climate regime are dealt with after they are produced and inserted into millions of cars and refrigerators dispersed around the globe, with much larger payments required to bring them under control.

It is a fearsome genie that no one wants out of the bottle. HFC proliferation would exacerbate an already dire climate emergency. Yet negotiators from both developed and developing nations proved themselves ill-prepared to harvest this low-hanging fruit. They failed at a crucial moment to send a model of successful global cooperation to Copenhagen to energize the already troubled talks there.

Zaelke still holds out hope for a good outcome. Negotiators in Copenhagen can deliver solid progress by officially requesting that the Montreal Protocol be used to phase down HFCs as quickly as possible, with oversight provided by the existing climate regime.

"It is still possible for Copenhagen to seize this opportunity to prevent the release of 100 billion tons of CO2-equivalent by enlisting the help of an adjunct treaty that already works," he said. "Resolving the HFC issue would be a good down-payment for a troubled system to make, and would break the climate logjam."

Zaelke is hoping Obama administration officials will supply the diplomatic muscle needed to make that happen this time, but just a few weeks shy of Copenhagen, there is no evidence they will.

"If they don't, then HFCs are just going to get lost in the noise, and we'll lose the opportunity to shape policy around fast actions that buy us as much time as possible," Zaelke said.


See also:

Class of 'Super GHGs' Becoming Focus of Heightened Concern

US Policy Breakthrough on Super Greenhouse Gases, But Obstacles Remain

International Opportunism Thwarting Rescue of Island Nations from Rising Seas

While Politicians Debate HFCs Phase-Down, Companies Innovate

Island Nations Plead for Help from Obama on HFCs

Hacked E-Mails Controversy Irrelevant in Copenhagen

Hacked E-Mails Controversy Irrelevant in Copenhagen

One of Denmark's leading businessmen and philanthropists, speaking privately at a reception here earlier this week, voiced a sentiment about the hacked e-mail controversy shared widely among attendees from around the world at this global climate conference.

"How can a few e-mails — which were stolen after all — have such an influence upon what Americans believe about global warming? The science is so consistent and deep. It is astonishing this is possible in the richest nation in the world."

A U.S. NGO representative offered an explanation: It is the unfortunate effectiveness of a right-wing propaganda machine in the U.S. that is able to manipulate the beliefs and passions of a sizable segment of the population and render them embarrassingly gullible.

The BIG UN Scam

The UN’s Copenhagen Conference will not reach any significant agreement on curtailing our use of fossil fuels because the entire fiasco is based upon propaganda using political distortion of science. The evidence is becoming increasingly available. What a reaction there has been to the alleged disclosure of E-mails and other data leaked from the UK’s University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit. This information has been flying around the Internet since 19th and if genuine it potentially blows the lid off the all of the propaganda that has been promulgated about The (significant human-made global climate change) Hypothesis. Despite this there apparently has not been a word from any political party member or broadcaster about it and I see no mention of it on your blog either. Why no news coverage or political reaction? Never mind, nothing much escapes the Internet.

In an article on this subject in the UK’s Daily Telegraph (Note 1) mention is made of John Daly. It says QUOTE: One of the alleged emails has a gentle gloat over the death in 2004 of John L Daly (one of the first climate change sceptics, founder of the Still Waiting For Greenhouse site), commenting: “In an odd way this is cheering news.” UNQUOTE. This alleged E-mail is presented more fully elsewhere (Note 2).

It is important to remain sceptical about the validity of this “leak” of information and await the results of a thorough investigation. (Is anyone in the news media doing something along these lines?). Despite this, there is a saying “there’s no smoke without fire”. It is interesting to see that there appeared to be an exchange of E-mails between John Daly and Phil Jones back in 2001 (Note 3). This item starts with QUOTE: After several requests by visitors to this website for details of the two emails which were sent by Phil Jones of CRU, demanding withdrawal of the articles about recent errors in CRU hemispheric temperatures, the following exchange of emails was made via a very large CC (110 addressees), with both of Jones' emails signed in his official capacity as professor at CRU. UNQUOTE. It is followed by an apparent exchange of E-mails between John Daly and Phil Jones.

I leave you to read them and draw your own conclusions. While you’re at it, have a read of the comments at Wattsupwiththat (Note 2). There are some interesting comments about that site favoured by supporters of The (significant human-made global climate change) Hypothesis, Realclimate (Note 4). It leads off with an article spinning the motivations behind what appears in the E-mails followed by some uncharacteristic defensive responses to readers’ comments by Gavin Schmidt.

Another interesting commentary on this is at ClimateAudit (Note 5). Try it for enlightenment.

1) see
2) see
3) see
4) see
5) see

Pete Ridley, human-made global climate change agnos(cep)tic

Perhaps necessary change is in the offing before it's too late..

We hear the Copenhagen Climate Conference will be a failure. No binding international agreement will be made. The last best hope for humanity to sensibly address climate destabilization has been turned into a steppingstone to nowhere.

A colossal tragedy is in the making. Father Profit wins again and again. Mother Nature loses.

Now for some good news: "THE(only)GAME(in town)" is in the bottom half of the ninth inning and, therefore, not yet over for Mother Nature.

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