Towards international HFC emissions cuts in post 2012 EU plans

By Sabine Lobnig, Jan 29, 2009, 00:00 3 minute reading

In its new communication, the European Commission explains what steps are to be taken for an international answer to fight global warming to be delivered at UN talks in December 2009. Agreed reductions in HFC emissions and increased low-carbon R&D pave the way for broader use of natural refrigerants.

28 January 2009, European Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas presented the EC’s communication on the follow-up to the Kyoto Protocol, which runs out in 2012. The document uncovers the necessary steps to reach an international agreement on how to tackle climate change at the UN conference in Copenhagen later this year.

The communication answers three main challenges as how to keep global warming below the scientifically-agreed critical 2°C level: defining targets and actions; providing financing; and building an effective global carbon market.

Global emissions cuts
Through its “climate and energy package”, the EU agreed, in December 2008, to cut its GHG emissions by 20%, compared to 1990 levels by 2020; and to a further 30% in case an international agreement is reached in Copenhagen. The EC is now calling for all OECD countries, EU Member States, EU candidate countries and potential candidates to adopt emissions targets. The EC is also asking developing countries, except for the poorest, to limit growth of emissions by 15-30% below business-as-usual level by 2020.

Reducing fluorinated gases
Fearing the phase-out of HCFCs under the Montreal Protocol will result in a drastic increase of HFC emissions (very potent GHGs), the EC pressed for Copenhagen to include an international emission reduction for HFC emissions. Thus encouraging “industry to step up intensified research into and development of HFCs with low global warming potential and HFC-free alternatives”. This decision would undoubtedly increase the potential use of hydrocarbons technologies.

R&D: open doors for hydrocarbons
“Globally, it would be desirable to at least double energy-related RD&D by 2012 and increase it to four times its current level by 2020, with a significant shift in emphasis towards low-carbon technologies, especially renewable energy sources,” outlines the communication. Such an agreement, if finally included in the Copenhaguen agreement, would be an opportunity for funding research and development in the uses of low GWP substances such as hydrocarbons. Concrete figures are however yet to be known.

Reducing market barriers for environmental goods
The EC also suggested lifting some market barriers for environmental goods and services. With the EU Ecodesign directive likely to broaden its scope to all “energy-related” goods, this could translate in bringing many hydrocarbons technologies quicker to the market.

Low carbon strategies and a global carbon market
More generally, although the EU must commit to the bulk of GHG emissions cuts, the paper sets out for the developing countries to “act their part” as rapidly growing emitters, by adopting “low-carbon strategies”. Funding will have to come from improved national regulations and investment in cleaner technologies. Public funding will also cover investments that cannot be met nationally.

With Australia and New Zealand soon to adopt a cap-and-trade system and the US giving positive signals to adopt a similar EU-inspired system, the EC is hoping to build a broad carbon market, including all countries of OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development). The EC stressed that only such a carbon market would to be able to raise the 175bn€ annually needed for clean technologies by 2020.

Next steps
The communication will have to be agreed in March by EU leaders. All in all, these provisions seem to be a step in the right direction, although clear budgets need now to be allocated for emissions cuts and R&D.


By Sabine Lobnig

Jan 29, 2009, 00:00

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