Remarks
Daniel A. Reifsnyder
Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs
Washington, DC
November 4, 2009


Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

We are delighted to be here in Egypt, and wish to start by thanking the Government and People of Egypt for their generous hospitality.

The United States of America is pleased to join our neighbors to the North and South -- the Governments of Canada and Mexico -- in support of the North American proposal to phase down the use of HFCs. This is an historic proposal -- never in my experience have the three governments of our North American continent joined together to propose global action to address a common threat to our environment. It is also historic in that we are seeking to address a threat that has not yet fully materialized. Global use of HFCs today is still relatively small. Our concern is that, unless we begin to act, use will increase significantly in the coming years -- and it is this increased use that will pose a problem for the environment.

We believe that our proposal will provide significant climate protection benefits, partly by preventing projected increases in the use of HFCs in many countries that result from both a transition away from ozone depleting substances (ODS), but also significantly as a result of the projected growth in air conditioning and refrigeration globally. We show cumulative HFC reductions through 2050 of 76,000 to 83,000 million metric tons (MMT) of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2-e). These cumulative benefits are roughly split equally between both Article 5 and non-Article 5 Parties: 40-43,000 MMT of COE-e for non-Article 5 Parties, and 37-41,000 MMT of CO2-e for Article 5 Parties.

If we act now, we governments can send a signal to our partners in the private sector that HFCs are not an end point but a way point -- that further efforts are needed now to develop new alternatives that at once protect the stratospheric ozone layer as well as the climate system. As we learned at the Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG) in July, alternatives for many uses are available today -- but more work is needed. This is why we have proposed a phase down, not a phase-out. And we are confident that the private sector -- which has shown itself so resilient in the past -- will respond to our call.

In making our North American proposal, we wish to acknowledge our colleagues from Mauritius and the Federated States of Micronesia and those who have supported their proposal to amend the Montreal Protocol to include the production and consumption of HFCs. They were the first to propose concrete action to address this problem, and their timely proposal has made it possible for this body -- this year -- to act. And we are conscious that we have before us an extremely important opportunity here in the next few days to take action that will send a crucial message to our colleagues who will assemble in Copenhagen in a few weeks time -- and who are meeting even now in Barcelona. We have an opportunity to tell them that the Montreal Protocol that has served us so well in the past is ready to contribute further -- that the Montreal Protocol is ready to enlist the powerful framework that has demonstrated success in protecting the ozone layer to help meet the threat to our global climate system. Agreement here among the Montreal Protocol Parties would send a vital positive message on the eve of the Copenhagen meeting that significant, collective global action is achievable to come to grips with environmental problems that threaten us all.

Mr. Chairman, I need not repeat what the representatives of Mexico and Canada have stated so eloquently. I wish only to make two further points. First, some have asked why we are proposing to take action under an ozone treaty on a climate issue. The answer is very simple. The climate issue is very broad and very complex. In our view, not all of the solutions to the climate problem will arise in the climate arena. We must take advantage of the tools at our disposal -- wherever they may be found -- to address the climate problem. This notion is found already within the Kyoto Protocol, I might note, in entrusting the International Civil Aviation Organization and the World Maritime Organization with responsibility for addressing greenhouse gas emissions from aircraft and shipping.

The Montreal Protocol does not set out explicit provisions related to the scope of the agreement, so we look to the language of the Vienna Convention to determine whether the Montreal Protocol can be used to phase down HFCs, in particular Article 2, paragraph 2(b).

This paragraph sets out general obligations for Parties to "co-operate in harmonizing appropriate policies to control, limit, reduce or prevent human activities that have or are likely to have adverse effects resulting from modification of the ozone layer."

HFCs are used primarily because they are alternatives to covered ozone depleting substances being phased out under the Protocol, and used in the very same sectors of CFC and HCFC use: foam blowing, air conditioning and refrigeration applications in particular.

In addressing HFCs, we are "harmonizing" our policies with regard to the phase-out of CFCs and HCFCs by agreeing to move away from them in a specific fashion.

We believe this concept was also reflected in Decision XIX/6, which gives priority to alternatives to HCFCs that minimize their impacts on the environment, including specifically their climate impacts.

It is therefore clear that we, as Parties, can choose to address HFCs in the Montreal Protocol consistent with Article 2, paragraph 2(b), to "co-operate in harmonizing appropriate policies" as is clearly set out in that text.

The Montreal Protocol has a demonstrated record of success in addressing the problem of ozone layer depletion. In our view this powerful tool can be used to address an important, but discrete, aspect of the climate problem -- one that is very integrally related to our efforts in this forum to tackle the problem of ozone layer depletion. Our proposal would help developing countries implement the proposal by making HFC phase down activities eligible for funding by the Multilateral Fund.

Second, some have asked whether we mean to remove HFCs from the purview of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (Framework Convention) and the Kyoto Protocol -- nothing could be more contrary to our intention. It is vital that we here and our colleagues in the climate arena work in tandem. We are proposing to change nothing under the Framework Convention and the Kyoto Protocol -- only to complement them. We are proposing here to address the consumption and production of HFCs -- not emissions. In our view, countries will continue to report on their emissions of HFCs under the Framework Convention and the Kyoto Protocol. Similarly, any accounting for reduced emissions of HFCs would accrue under the Framework Convention. Ultimately, to spell out this relationship more precisely we see the need for a decision under the Framework Convention, but we need not await such a decision to act now -- at this meeting.

Mr. Chairman, a very great opportunity lies before us. I urge that we join together to recognize it and act to seize it here, this year.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman