(The author is a Reuters market analyst. The views expressed
are his own.)
By Gerard Wynn
LONDON, June 11 A new deal to curb carbon
emissions could copy features from the Montreal Protocol, which
the United States and China favoured over its Kyoto counterpart
in an agreement on greenhouse gases at the weekend.
The 1987 Montreal agreement bans chemicals that destroy the
Earth's protective ozone layer, such as chlorofluorocarbons
(CFCs) formerly used as refrigerants and propellants in aerosol
sprays, while the 1997 Kyoto Protocol is meant to curb
The United States and China, however, agreed on Saturday to
use the Montreal Protocol to control the use of
HFCs are used increasingly as a substitute for
ozone-depleting chemicals banned under the Montreal pact. Though
they do not deplete the ozone layer, they are powerful
"The United States and China will work together and with
other countries to use the expertise and institutions of the
Montreal Protocol to phase down the consumption and production
of HFCs, among other forms of multilateral cooperation," the
United States said in a statement on Saturday.
"A global phase-down of HFCs could potentially reduce some
90 gigatons of CO2 (carbon dioxide) equivalent by 2050, equal to
roughly two years' worth of current global greenhouse gas
The decision reflects the outstanding success of the
Montreal agreement, which details a particular timetable to ban
each ozone-depleting substance (ODS).
A new climate deal, meant to be agreed by 2015 for
implementation from 2020, could divide action similarly - by
specific gases or economic sectors rather than presenting
economy-wide targets to curb total greenhouse gas emissions.
The Montreal Protocol has achieved greater global
participation than its Kyoto counterpart, which has failed to
gain the support of the United States.
Kyoto was ratified by 191 countries and Montreal by 197,
according to the United Nations, but real action on Kyoto was
limited to only 37 nations because it required only
industrialised countries to make cuts in greenhouse gas
That number dwindled to about 30 under a Kyoto extension
agreed in Qatar last December, with the withdrawal of major
developed countries including Russia, Canada and Japan.
The Montreal agreement, meanwhile, requires action by all
countries, while giving developing nations more time to phase
out the various ozone-depleting substances.
Comparing action since 1990, the Kyoto Protocol baseline
year, global carbon emissions have risen about 53 percent, BP
energy data show, while global production of controlled
ozone-depleting chemicals has fallen by more than 96 percent.
(See Chart 1)
Chart 1: link.reuters.com/zep78t
Chart 2: link.reuters.com/zyj77t
The Montreal pact has a number of advantages over Kyoto,
promoting greater participation and ambition.
* A far narrower economic impact thanks to the focus on the
chemical industry rather than global energy.
* The cost of switching to alternative cooling fluids and
substitutes for aerosol sprays was small for producers and
* The cost of inaction was enormous in terms of more skin
cancer deaths because of an increase in the size of the hole in
the ozone layer during the 1980s, compared with the less certain
effects of climate change.
* Public concern over the risk of skin cancer generated
legislative momentum in the United States, which in turn helped
to push global action.
* By achieving broad participation, the Montreal Protocol
eased concerns over the possibility of industrial companies
relocating to countries with more lax controls.
* Procedures that banned ODS trade with countries not signed
up to the protocol. The equivalent under a climate agreement
could be a ban on imports of products that fail to meet certain
standards, such as less efficient cars.
NO NET COST
Experience from the Montreal Protocol suggests that the
United States will only sign up to a climate agreement that has
That is reflected by its enthusiasm for curbs in HFC
greenhouse gases. The country's HFC emissions have risen 12
percent since 2005, more than any other significant greenhouse
gas, U.N. data show. (See Chart 2)
But cutting them could be quite easy. The U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) last year listed 12 substitutes
available now for aerosols, five for air conditioning units and
nine in refrigeration products. ("Benefits of Addressing HFCs
under the Montreal Protocol", EPA, June 2012)
As for the task of focusing climate action on particular
greenhouse gases and economic sectors, a report published by the
International Energy Agency (IEA) on Monday said that action on
four policies was achievable at "no net economic cost"
("Redrawing the energy-climate map", IEA, June 2013).
"They meet key criteria: they can deliver significant
reductions in energy-sector emissions by 2020; they rely only on
existing technologies; they have already been adopted and proven
in several countries; and, taken together, their widespread
adoption would not harm economic growth in any country or
region," the report said.
The four policies were: the adoption of energy efficiency
measures, including autos; limiting the construction of
inefficient coal plants; minimising methane emissions from oil
and gas production; and accelerating the phase-out of fossil
These could be a template for dividing up climate action
both before 2020 and under a new deal, making some commitment
achievable for all countries.
(Editing by David Goodman)