The Kigali amendment was an unqualified diplomatic and substantive success. It placed the entire world on a mandatory phase-down schedule for hydrofluorocarbons, preventing runaway growth in HFCs.
Still, it left key details undefined such as the future baseline against which all progress will be measured. In addition, major implementation hurdles need to be cleared away and enforcement clauses must be shored up. But most of all, the less than ideal timetable needs to be accelerated by providing multiple incentives for leapfrogging to the most sustainable alternatives.
At the June meeting in Portugal, the NGOs did not reach consensus on which interventions were the highest priority. Instead, they proposed multiple approaches, a few of which are already being pursued. However, they agreed vigilance is crucial to avoid a watering down of the Kigali Amendments through inertia, indifference, or malice. Brief descriptions of each intervention are provided in the text box below.
NGOs also discussed troubles brewing in Europe, which is under a 15-year phase-down schedule. The first major deadline hits January 2018 and industry – which was hedging its bets – is generally unprepared to comply. Major shortages and price spikes for replacement chemicals (which are already expensive) are expected. This is likely to promote black markets. NGOs also expect production to be disrupted and that some marginal companies will close down. Southern Europe will be the hardest hit. European NGOs are rushing to get ahead of the crisis and to prevent the fall-out from spreading. They would also like to leverage this moment into a major leap forward for alternative refrigerants (hydrocarbons, ammonia, nitrogen, etc.) but that is a complex play involving multiple players and institutions.
Vigilance comes at a cost. The multiyear campaign leading up to the Kigali Amendment was well supported by philanthropy, and governments, with the last minute surge of $80 million putting it over the top. Ongoing action to ensure the F-gas transition agreed in Kigali actually happens, needs continued support.
In terms of urgency, the European crisis is first and foremost, since it will hit in January 2018. The next most urgent tasks are to open the pathway to sustainable alternatives, close enforcement loopholes, and do everything possible to set a decent 2020-22 baseline.