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Agreement on a global HFC phasedown under the Montreal Protocol is likely to be finalised by the end of 2016, according to Patrick McInerney, the Ozone and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas Policy director for the Department of the Environment.

He said there are still a lot of details to be worked through to determine the rate of the phasedown but he is “hopeful” it will happen this year.

Speaking on day two of the ARBS Exhibition in Melbourne last month, McInerney’s presentation covered the progress to date on a global HFC phasedown as well as providing an update on the ozone protection and synthetic greenhouse gas program review and the steps Australia is taking to reduce emissions.

While the details of a global HFC phase-down have not yet been agreed upon, at least agreement has been reached to undertake a global HFC phasedown, which is no easy task. Just reaching agreement from all 190 parties is an achievement with McInerney pointing out that negotiations do take time.

He said a formal agreement to work on a HFC amendment in 2016 was reached at a meeting in Dubai in November, 2015.

“Negotiations began in 2009 and we didn’t reach agreement until 2015. That’s a total of six years to reach agreement,” McInerney said. “There are still a lot of details to be worked through to determine the rate of the phasedown but we are hopeful an agreement will be finalised by the end of 2016.”

So what will the phasedown look like under the Montreal Protocol? McInerney said four phasedown proposals are under consideration.

“The final agreement is likely to be a combination of all four proposals rather than just one,” he said. “It is also likely to be modelled on the CFC and HCFC phaseouts which began in 1987. There is generally a long lead time to allow industry to adapt, there really is a lot of equipment out there. In Australia alone there is up to 50 million pieces of equipment.”

Once the phasedown rules are set under the Montreal Protocol, McInerney said Australia will then decide how it will implement that agreement to reach the overall targets.

“The Australian Government is pretty hands off, it sets the final target and lets industry decide how to achieve the rate of change,” he said.

“This worked well for the HCFC phaseout where we reached the 99.5% target phase out four years ahead of schedule under the Montreal Protocol. Other countries are more prescriptive. We really don’t have to follow other countries as long as we get the right outcome,” he said.

“The reason the Montreal Protocol has been so successful is because it is flexible enough to deal with a lot of different countries. For example, some developing countries get financial help and additional time.” And it is these issues that need to be determined before a final HFC phasedown agreement can be reached.

“We need to deal with the level of assistance to developing countries, then there are the legal issues as well as the technical issues,” McInerney explained. “We need to ensure there are plenty of alternatives in place. All of these issues need to be addressed before real negotiations can actually begin.” So what’s happening in Australia?

McInerney said HFC emissions comprise less than two per cent of Australia’s total emissions. “It’s only a small component but at the current rate of growth, without action, it will be significant,” he said. “Fortunately, the Australian RAC industry has always shown a willingness to deal with environmental issues. Industry groups have supported a HFC phasedown for almost a decade.”

The Federal Government is yet to announce its detailed HFC phase-down plans, but Australia has committed reduce HFC emissions by 85% by 2036 as part of its commitment to cut total greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 per cent based on 2005 levels by 2030.

Moreover, in May, 2014 the Federal Government announced a review of the Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas Management Program. Known as the Ozone Review, McInerney said it was announced with two clear goals.

“They are to reduce the regulatory burden on industry and to look at options to reduce emissions,” he said. “Since 2014 the government has engaged with industry to look at a range of different options. That consultation is still ongoing.”

McInerney said an options paper was released in October, 2015 and 57 submissions were received. “A lot of good ideas have been put forward in these submissions. However, a lot of them are outside the review and cannot be introduced under
this particular mechanism,” he said.

“The main emissions reduction options, specifically a HFC phasedown, are in line with Montreal Protocol proposals and
have very broad support.” McInerney said that while the ozone review generated plenty of “food for thought” many
of the proposals will have to be addressed separately simply because they are outside the scope of the review.

He did outline some of the options proposed in the submissions such as mandatory leak testing, mandatory maintenance, national licensing and the need for more training.

“There was a lot of support for a national licensing scheme that includes natural refrigerants,” he said.

“But legally and constitutionally this proposal presents a lot of challenges that impact different levels of government. We
need to take into account health and safety, consumer protection and other laws to create a trade-based system.”

Although there were deregulation options, McInerney said there is actually support for more regulation.

“There wasn’t much enthusiasm to reduce regulation, industry likes good regulation and sees opportunities to improve the system such as increasing licence validity periods or reviewing how licensing is delivered,” he said. “There was
a lot of support for increased enforcement, especially allocating more powers to the Australian Refrigeration Council (ARC).”

McInerney is currently co-chairing HFC Phasedown negotiations. Last month he was presented with a Public Service Medal in recognition of his work in this area.

 

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