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Climate, Environment, and Conservation: Statement at the High-Level Segment

Thank you, Mr. President. It is a great privilege to be here today speaking at the High-Level Segment of the 25th Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol. As we meet here in Bangkok today, I am conscious that this is also the day some 68 years ago that the United Nations Charter entered into force, bringing together all nations of the world. It is very fitting that the Parties to the only truly global agreement – the Montreal Protocol, which has been ratified by every nation in the world -- should be meeting on this day.

We came to Bangkok this year with high hopes that we would make significant progress on a great challenge that is also a great opportunity – the challenge of avoiding the widespread uptake of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) before they undermine global efforts to address climate change -- and the opportunity that doing so affords us to demonstrate once again the strength and vitality of the Montreal Protocol in producing multiple environmental benefits. I noted earlier this week that the environmental benefits of doing so would amount to more than 90 gigatons (gt) of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2-e) by 2050. To put this in some perspective, this is about two years of current emissions of greenhouse gases from human sources.

We have been heartened this past year by the growing recognition of this problem – both the challenge it poses and the opportunity it affords – by people and their leaders around the world. In June last year at the Rio+20 Conference in Brazil leaders recognized that the phase-out of ozone-depleting substances is resulting in a rapid increase in the use and release of high global warming potential HFCs to the environment. They supported a gradual phase-down in the consumption and production of HFCs. And just this week we heard support, for the first time, from the entire African region to begin our work in earnest to phase down HFCs through the Montreal Protocol.

Last month, at the G-20 St. Petersburg Meeting in the Russian Federation, leaders called for complementary initiatives to address climate change through multilateral approaches that include using the expertise and institutions of the Montreal Protocol to phase down the production and consumption of HFCs. They urged that this should be based on the examination of economically viable and technical feasible alternatives and they said that they would continue to include HFCs within the scope of the UN Framework Convention and its Kyoto Protocol for accounting and reporting of emissions.

On the margins of the G-20, President Obama and President Xi of China emphasized the importance of the Montreal Protocol, including as a next step through the establishment of an open-ended contact group to consider all relevant issues, including financial and technology support to Article 5 developing countries, cost effectiveness, safety of substitutes, environmental benefits, and an amendment.

We have been heartened at this meeting by the growing recognition of the challenge and the opportunity and by the growing willingness of Parties to begin tackling the important issues involved in a serious and constructive manner. Many delegations have raised important questions about the availability of substitutes for HFCs, about their costs, about the availability of assistance from the Multilateral Fund for Article 5 Parties and a host of other matters. We believe that these questions must be addressed in a deliberate and systematic manner and will continue to work toward that end. It is important to recall, however, that the Parties to the Montreal Protocol have not allowed uncertainty to paralyze them in the past. In fact, it has been a hallmark of the Montreal Protocol that Parties have been willing to take action even in the face of some uncertainty. Colleagues have pointed out that we know more today about alternatives to HFCs than we knew at the time that Parties took action to address chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) or at the time they took action to address hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs). The signals sent by the Montreal Protocol to the private sector have helped to produce the solutions we need.

Another remarkable feature of the Montreal Protocol has been its ability to produce multiple environmental benefits. Nearly every action that the Parties here have taken under the Montreal Protocol to control production and consumption of ozone depleting substances has also produced substantial benefits for the climate system. This is because CFCs and HCFCs are also greenhouse gases. Some would have us draw bright lines between efforts to address climate change and efforts to address depletion of the ozone layer – fortunately, nature won’t let them.

Mr. President, in closing let me say that it can take time and patience to achieve great things. While our hopes in coming to this meeting have not been fully realized, we are undeterred in our belief that the Parties to this Protocol will once again demonstrate this it is one of the most important instruments ever created to address global environmental problems. We are confident that we can act once again in our collective self-interest and in the interest of our planet.

Lastly, there are two people I would like to thank for their contribution to the Montreal Protocol. Suely Carvallo has capably led UNDP’s Implementation Unit for many years and helped key countries achieve successful transitions out of CFCs and HCFCs. We appreciate her contribution. We are deeply grateful to our Executive Secretary Marco Gonzalez for the manifold contributions he has made to the work of the Montreal Protocol during his tenure. So many times it has been his deft and patient diplomacy that has brought us together. No matter how dark the prospects for progress may have seemed, Marco has never been discouraged. He has instead been infinitely creative and wondrously buoyant. We shall miss him acutely, but we shall forever be guided by his example.