While international negotiations on climate change don’t seem to be going anywhere at the moment, some further tightening has been agreed within the regime that combats substances that deplete the ozone layer (the Vienna Convention and Montreal Protocol). The parties have decided to speed up the elimination of hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), which were permitted as temporary substitutes for the chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) that destroy ozone most energetically.
The BBC reports that:
The US administration says the new deal will be twice as effective as the Kyoto Protocol in controlling greenhouse gas emissions.
This seems quite implausible to me. HFCs, PFCs, and SF6 collectively contribute about 1% of anthropogenic warming. As such, their complete elimination would have a fairlylimited effect. In addition, the Vienna Convention process always envisioned their elimination, so there is nothing substantially new about this announcement, other than the timing. An agreement for eliminating HCFCs has been in place since 1992:
1996 – production freeze
2004 – 35% reduction
2010 – 65% reduction
2015 – 90% reduction
2020 – 99.5% reduction
2030 – elimination
While it does seem that this timeline isn’t being followed, it remains to be seen whether this new announcement will have any effect on that.
The Kyoto Protocol targets a six different greenhouse gases, most importantly the carbon dioxide that constitutes 77% of anthropogenic climate change. If it had succeeded at reducing emissions among Annex I signatories by 5.2%, as planned, it would have been both a significant contribution and an important starting point.
None of this is to say that we shouldn’t welcome the HCFC phaseout. If nothing else, it should help with the recovery of the ozone layer. We just need to be cautious about accepting statements like the one quoted.