U.S. Pushing Montreal Protocol as an Easy-Win Climate Treaty to Ban Emissions

U.N. officials, desperate for a win at the sleeper climate talks in Cancun, are now proposing a means to cut greenhouse gas emissions that should wake us all up: the 1987 Montreal Protocol. This from Greenwire in yesterday’s New York Times:

A proposal to curb some of the world’s most potent heat-trapping gases by expanding a decades-old treaty appears to be turning heads.

With international attempts to broker major climate deals falling short, expanding the Montreal Protocol may represent the best shot at fighting rising temperatures, some analysts say. And overcoming one of the most formidable hurdles to this approach may be on the menu at the global warming summit in Cancun, Mexico.

The Montreal Protocol, adopted in 1987, was aimed at reining in aerosols and other pollutants that science indicated were boring a hole in the planet’s ozone sheath. The widely praised treaty — which all countries have signed — has been heralded for slashing more than 95 percent of ozone-depleting substances in developed countries and more than half of those chemicals in developing countries.

Now, a proposal to add industrial refrigerants with formidable global warming potential onto the list of chemicals that countries would be required to phase out under the treaty is garnering significant interest. More than 90 countries ranging from Cambodia and Burkina Faso to Sweden and the United Kingdom signed onto a declaration earlier this month calling for adding hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, to the treaty.

The U.S. is behind the effort:

The United States also backs that move.

Whereas international climate talks have languished, the Montreal Protocol is successful because it is so “simple,” said Michael Levi, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. “It doesn’t work because it’s some special sauce,” he said.

“[The Montreal Protocol] dealt with an issue for which solutions were readily available, and those solutions were cheap on top of that,” he said. “It was also put together in a world where a smaller set of countries with much more in common held a lot of the power.”

Most disturbing, the article says the ban has the support from industry and Republicans in Congress, including Sen. James Inhofe:

Moreover, unlike the Kyoto Protocol and proposed climate treaties geared toward shrinking Earth’s carbon footprint, the Montreal Protocol has broad support from industry and congressional Republicans. Measures to fight other non-CO2 gases like black carbon have won the support of Capitol Hill climate skeptics like Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.).

Industry is also already taking action on HFCs — yesterday 400 companies including Wal-Mart, Coca-Cola, Nestle and Unilever said they would begin phasing out the refrigerants starting in 2015.

Fred Singer first warned his readers about this possible “rabbit out of a hat” a few days ago, and warns that “‘slaying the dragon’ amounts to slaying a mouse — or something even smaller. But you can bet that it will be trumpeted as a tremendous achievement and will likely invigorate the search for other mice that can be slain.”

His article on this subject is well worth a read.

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