World's Most Effective Environmental Treaty Turns 30
By David Doniger and Alex Hillbrand
This is a big year for the Montreal Protocol—the 30th anniversary of the world's most successful environmental protection agreement.
Every country on Earth is a party to this treaty, which has prevented catastrophic destruction of the ozone layer that protects us from the sun's dangerous ultraviolet radiation. Phasing out ozone-destroying chemicals has also provided a huge climate protection side-benefit, because many of those chemicals are also powerful heat-trapping agents. Countries took climate protection a step farther by adopting the Kigali Amendment to phase down hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) in October 2016.
Representatives of the parties, industry and nongovernmental organizations are gathered this week in Bangkok. Topping the agenda are steps to complete the accelerated phase-out of the last generation of ozone-depleting chemicals—the hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs)—agreed in 2007, by negotiating the next three year "replenishment" of funding to assist developing countries in meeting their reduction commitments. Countries are also discussing the role of the Montreal Protocol in supporting energy efficiency improvements as a co-benefit of transitioning to environmentally friendly refrigerants in air conditioners and refrigeration.
The funding branch of the Montreal Protocol, the Multilateral Fund (MLF), covers the agreed incremental costs that developing countries incur to meet their obligations under the Protocol. Every three years, countries agree to replenish the MLF to support country programs to help convert from old to new substances and from old to new product designs. This week, negotiations will begin for the period 2018-2020, ultimately leading to an agreed replenishment level at the Meeting of the Parties in November 2017.
The bulk of the MLF's activity in the next three-year period will focus on the phase-out of HCFCs. It will also include funding for countries to avoid transitioning to HFCs with high climate-warming power (global warming potential or GWP) by leapfrogging straight from ozone-depleting chemicals to low-GWP alternatives. This will help avoid the buildup of HFC-using equipment that must later be replaced . Funding over the next three years will also include money for important preliminary HFC-related activities. Eligible HFC-specific initial activities have been under discussion since last October and were recently agreed by the MLF's governing Executive Committee (ExCom).
Last week, the ExCom agreed that the MLF will fund a list of initial "enabling activities" (i.e., activities that precede preparation of national implementation plans) to support the phasedown of HFCs, including supporting country actions for early Kigali Amendment ratification, work on institutional arrangements and licensing systems, data reporting on HFC production and consumption, and more.
In addition, the committee agreed to fund a limited number of HFC phase-down investment projects not tied to any country plan to phase down HFCs. These pilot-type projects will help the MLF determine typical costs for HFC conversions, and will aid ExCom as it writes guidelines for how much funding should be made available for HFC phase-down activities. These projects will offer leadership companies in developing countries a great opportunity to start phasing down HFCs early, with financial support from the Protocol.
Countries also requested a study on the most cost-effective ways to destroy HFC-23, a super-potent by-product of HCFC-22 production, with a GWP 14,800 times that of carbon dioxide. The first major commitment of developing countries under the Kigali Amendment is mandatory destruction of HFC-23 starting Jan. 1, 2020. Better understating the costs will help the MLF allocate funds for the required destruction. Key issues surrounding funding eligibility, however, will not be addressed by this study.
While the vast majority of the funding for the 2018-2020 replenishment will be devoted to the HCFC phase-out, these three ExCom decisions begin to build the framework for implementing the Kigali Amendment and will guide parties to provide additional funding for preliminary HFC-related activities. The Technology and Economic Assessment Panel (TEAP), which advises the parties on the replenishment, will now be able to add HFC-related activities to its replenishment report, which provides advice to the parties on funding.
The TEAP's final report will be done in advance of the Meeting of the Parties in November 2017, at which the total funding for the replenishment will be agreed. A robust funding package for the 2018-2020 replenishment will help developing countries complete the HCFC phase-out and start the HFC phase-down ahead of schedule. To fulfill the promise of the Kigali Amendment, it will be important for funding countries to provide ample support to allow countries to leapfrog HFCs whenever possible and, in addition, to begin setting the stage for the full phasedown of HFCs in the years to come.
Eleven peaceful activists from the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise have taken to the water in inflatable boats with handheld banners to oppose the Statoil Songa Enabler oil rig, 275 km North off the Norwegian coast, in the Arctic Barents sea.
The banners say: "People Vs. Arctic Oil" and are directed at Statoil and the Norwegian government, which has opened a new, aggressive search for oil in the waters of the Barents Sea.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) paved the way Friday for the 600-mile, 42-inch fracked gas Atlantic Coast Pipeline to proceed when it issued the final environmental impact statement (FEIS). A joint project of utility giants Duke Energy and Dominion Energy, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline would move fracked gas from West Virginia into Virginia and North Carolina.
In April, the Sierra Club submitted more than 500 pages of legal and technical comments on FERC's draft EIS, which were joined by more than 18,000 individual comments detailing opposition to the project. The pipeline has been met with widespread opposition, with more than 1,000 people participating in public hearings across the three affected states. The Sierra Club recently requested that FERC issue a new environmental review document analyzing information that came in after or late in, the public comment process.
By Jessica Corbett
"It's time Rex Tillerson step down or be removed," said Gigi Kellett of Corporate Accountability International, following an announcement on Thursday that ExxonMobil will pay $2 million for violating U.S. sanctions against Russian officials while the now-secretary of state was the company's CEO.
"ExxonMobil demonstrated reckless disregard for U.S. sanction requirements," according to enforcement filing released by the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), which issued the penalty. Though the fine is reportedly the maximum penalty allowed, it's pittance to one of the world's most profitable and powerful corporations, which last year reported a profit of $7.8 billion.
New analysis from Amory B. Lovins debunks the notion that highly unprofitable, economically distressed nuclear plants should be further subsidized to meet financial, security, reliability and climate goals. The analysis, which will appear shortly in The Electricity Journal, shows that closing costly-to-run nuclear plants and reinvesting their saved operating costs in energy efficiency provides cheaper electricity, increases grid reliability and security, reduces more carbon, and preserves (not distorts) market integrity—all without subsidies.
By Christian Detisch and Seth Gladstone
In the wake of Senate Republicans' ever-deepening debacle over their flailing attempts to strip health insurance from 22 million people, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is desperate to do something—anything—to show that he can get legislation passed. To this end, he's bypassing the standard committee review process to push a complex 850+ page energy bill straight to the full Senate floor. Perhaps not surprisingly, this legislation, the Energy and Natural Resources Act of 2017, would be a disaster for public health and our climate.
A new law passed this week in South Miami will require all new homes built in the city to install solar panels. The measure, which was inspired by a proposal from a teenage climate activist, will go into effect in September.
The text of the ordinance details the climate impacts facing South Miami.
By Ben Jervey
Just last week, we fact-checked and debunked every line of The Dirty Secrets of Electric Cars, a video produced by Fueling U.S. Forward, a Koch-funded campaign to push fossil fuels. That video represents the group's first public pivot from fossil fuel boosterism to electric vehicle (EV) attacks. More electric vehicle experts are also picking the video apart.
One effort is this video highlighting many of the same falsehoods we wrote about, and which adds key context about some of the video footage. Like, for instance, the fact that the photo that Fueling U.S. Forward claims is a lithium, cobalt or cerium mining operation is actually a copper mine.
By Katherine Paul and Ronnie Cummins
A recent series of articles by a Washington Post reporter could have some consumers questioning the value of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) organic seal. But are a few bad eggs representative of an entire industry?
Consumers are all for cracking down on the fraudulent few who, with the help of Big Food, big retail chains and questionable certifiers give organics a bad name. But they also want stronger standards, and better enforcement—not a plan to weaken standards to accommodate "Factory Farm Organic."