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Obama's green promise

President Obama was elected on a promise to act decisively on global warming. He is on the verge of his first major executive act to this end – to seek a global ban on HFCs.

This initiative will take place not under the Kyoto protocol, but under the Montreal protocol – even though it has no mandate to act on climate issues.

The choice is based on the Montreal protocol track record of environmental achievement and proven mechanisms to make a ban on HFCs effective.

The Montreal protocol has also achieved far more for the climate than the Kyoto protocol.

By 2012 the Montreal protocol will have reduced emissions by the equivalent of 8bn tonnes (Gt) of CO2, compared to estimates of 2Gt for the Kyoto protocol by the same time.

Under the proposals to be submitted to the Montreal protocol, high global warming potential HFCs would be phased out on a global basis, with the industrial countries taking a lead while developing countries would have longer to comply.

The developing countries would also be able to draw on a Multilateral Fund to meet the costs of shifting to new technologies, guided by expert advice from a Technical and Economic Assessment Panel (TEAP).

Although the cost would come to hundreds of millions of dollars, this is a fraction of the cost of using the “carbon market” mechanisms of the Kyoto protocol.

The great unanswered question is: will this be done despite of, or because of, the powerful F-Gas lobby in the USA?

Have the Americans really seen the light, or do they think that they can make more profit from R-1234 et al?

Rumours are circulating that R-1234 may come to market at £20 to £50/kilo, i.e. up to 10 times higher than R-134A.

So maybe not so much of a green promise fulfilled as a financial boost for the ailing US chemical industry?