International negotiations over a proposal to regulate hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) came up short in Bangkok this week.
Two separate proposals, one by Micronesia, Morocco and the Maldives and the second by Canada, Mexico and the United States, would expand the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer to regulate HFCs, commonly used as refrigerants and in other industrial applications. HFCs were developed as ozone-friendly alternatives to chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), but they double as powerful greenhouse gases.
Environmentalists reported that the idea continued to garner support at this week’s meeting, which ended today. In particular, South Africa and the larger negotiating block of African countries endorsed a call to begin formal negotiations over the HFC amendments. But many had hoped for a more concrete decision in favour of regulating HFCs this week, given the endorsement by leaders of the Group of 20 (G20) in September. India, joined by Saudi Arabia, blocked consideration of the amendments.
With China apparently on board thanks to an agreement between US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping, India shouldered most of the blame. India backpedaled after signing onto the G20 commitment, although Obama and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh agreed on 27 September to launch negotiations over the issue.
The proposal has been in the works for several years (for prior coverage, see ‘Cutting out the chemicals’ and ‘Ozone treaty could be used for greenhouse gases’). At this week’s meeting, delegates called for a technical report on HFC alternatives and a formal workshop on the issue next year.