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UNEP chief bangs the drum for acclerated action on HFCs

Executive director uses scientific study to attack ‘low hanging fruit’ of HFCs and says faster removal will buy the world the equivalent of a decades-worth of C02 emissions

UN Environment Programme chief Achim Steiner says he welcomes the findings of a scientific paper on climate change calling for accelerated action on HFC removal.

The paper indicates that unless there is action on HFCs, then countries and companies are likely to pick this group of gases to replace HCFCs in products such as air conditioning units, refrigeration and insulating foams.

An international team of research scientists argue - in the Proceeedings of the National Academy of Sciences - that under a scenario where carbon dioxide emissions are pegged to 450 parts per million HFCs could equal nine gigatonnes - equivalent to around 45 per cent of total C02 emissions - by 2050 if their growth is unchecked.

They add that rapid action to freeze and to cut emissions annually alongside ‘readily available’ alternatives could see HFC emissions fall to under one gigatonne by 2050.

Mr Steiner, UN under-secretary general and UNEP executive director, said: “There are other low hanging fruit in the climate change challenge and this new scientific paper spotlights one of them - HFCs. By some estimates, action to freeze and then reduce this group of gases could buy the world the equivalent of a decades-worth of C02 emissions.”

Guus Velders of the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, the lead author of the paper (see above right), said in a statement: “Because of the projected growth of these climate-warming chemicals, they could represent up to 45 per cent of the total global C02 emissions by 2050 under a scenario that stabilises C02 emissions at 450 parts per million. Preventing strong growth in HFC use is an important climate mitigation option the world has now.”

Under a business as usual scenario, where C02 emissions are higher, HFCs could equate to between nine and 19 per cent of C02 emissions in 2050 causing a greenhouse effect equal to 6-13 years of global C02 pollution, he adds.