Are national HFC emissions reports suitable for global policy negotiation?

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bristol
Department Name: Chemistry

Abstract

Negotiations are underway to determine whether the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) should be regulated under the Montreal Protocol, the international treaty that is designed to protect the stratospheric ozone layer. Whilst HFCs do not deplete stratospheric ozone, they are potent greenhouse gases (GHG), with global warming potentials hundreds to thousands of times that of carbon dioxide. Therefore, proponents of the proposed amendments to the Protocol argue that, because their rapid growth in the atmosphere is a direct result of the global phase-down of ozone depleting substances, for which HFCs are replacements, their resulting impact on global climate should now be regulated under the same framework. A major limitation of the on-going discussions is that emissions of HFCs are very poorly constrained at present, with more than 60% of the global emissions, as determined using atmospheric measurements, being un-reported in 2012. This could be due to poor reporting practices, and/or the incomplete nature of global emissions reports under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), in which only a subset of countries are required to report their emissions in detail. Recent estimates of the emissions of HFCs and other synthetic GHGs derived from atmospheric measurements indicate that both factors are likely to contribute. However, a comprehensive evaluation of such "top-down" emissions estimates for the major reporting countries has not yet been carried out. Furthermore, we argue that the uncertainty quantification methods in the "inverse" modelling frameworks that are used to derive emissions of HFCs (and all other GHGs) must be dramatically improved if they are to be robust and relevant to policy makers.

This proposal aims to develop new methods for estimating national GHG emissions using atmospheric observations and chemical transport models. In particular, we will pioneer the use of hierarchical Bayesian modelling and Gaussian process emulation. These techniques will allow us, for the first time, to explicitly include the influence of some critical uncertainties in the atmospheric modelling process on "top-down" emissions estimates. This will allow us to estimate national emissions of the major HFCs with a more complete estimate of the uncertainty than has previously been possible. We will examine in detail the differences between these emissions estimates and the national inventories, and determine critically whether the current reports submitted to the UNFCCC are appropriate for informing the debate on the future of the Montreal Protocol.

Planned Impact

Emissions of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) are the subject of intense interest at present, due to on-going negotiations that aim to decide whether their use should be limited under the Montreal Protocol due to their potential to contribute significantly to global warming. Furthermore, there are growing concerns that estimates of the emissions of these substances, which are reported to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) by "developed" countries, may be subject to inaccuracies or omissions. Therefore, the impacts of this proposal are targeted towards on researchers and agencies responsible for estimating HFC emissions, climate scientists and the general public, with the central aim of improving the information available for policy negotiation.

This proposal aims to quantify HFC emissions for the major reporting countries using atmospheric measurements, with a comprehensive evaluation of the uncertainty budget in such estimates. This information will be invaluable to agencies responsible for compiling national emissions inventories, as it will provide a robust, independent evaluation. It will also be useful to government departments and policy makers who are required to evaluate the success of emissions reduction schemes, and who must participate in international treaty negotiation, such as the on-going discussions surrounding the Montreal Protocol. In the UK, the primary beneficiary will be the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC), which is responsible for the UK's emissions reports. DECC have demonstrated their interest in this field, in particular, by funding a network of GHG monitoring sites in the UK, which will be used in this proposal.

In the UK and internationally, we will engage with a network of researchers who are responsible for estimating national GHG emissions. This particularly includes researchers in Switzerland and Australia, who, together with the UK, are the only countries to currently report "top-down" emissions estimates to the UNFCCC in addition to the more widely used "bottom-up" accounting methodologies. We will also engage with project partners in countries such as the USA and South Korea. Despite not producing detailed top-wodn emissions reports, these researchers, and the agencies that fund them, have a keen interest in developments that are being made in countries such as the UK, which will influence their future reporting plans.

It has recently been shown that HFCs could have a substantial impact on global climate in the coming decades. Therefore, HFC emissions must be of concern to the wider academic community interested in climate change. Furthermore, there is a high level of public concern regarding climate change and greenhouse gases.

A detailed engagement plan with these beneficiaries is outlined in the Pathways to Impact. The central strategy involves further strengthening the close ties that the team has with DECC and international researchers involved in the Advanced Global Atmospheric Gases Experiment (AGAGE). The outcomes of this research will be disseminated to these beneficiaries through workshops, meetings, and sharing of code and emissions estimates. We will engage with the wider research community and the general public through regular publications, attendance at general climate science conferences, and regular use of public outreach opportunities such as those organised through the University of Bristol's Cabot Institute.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description We have developed new methods for inferring hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) emissions using atmospheric observations.
Exploitation Route We are creating a public code repository that will encapsulate the new developments that we are making in the inference of greenhouse gas emissions using atmospheric observations. This code can be used by any researcher.
Sectors Environment

 
Description The findings of our work on HFC emissions are being used in the World Meteorological Organisation Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion (2018). This assessment is mandated under the Montreal Protocol, providing Parties to the Protocol with updates on scientific advances in the field of ozone depletion.
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Environment
Impact Types Policy & public services

 
Description Lead authorship of World Meteorological Organisation Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion 2018
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
URL https://www.esrl.noaa.gov/csd/assessments/ozone/2018/
 
Description SPARC Report on the Mystery of Carbon Tetrachloride
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
URL https://doi.org/10.3929/ethz-a-010690647
 
Description Met Office Newton Fund - Brazilian methane emissions
Amount £179,000 (GBP)
Organisation Meteorological Office UK 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2018 
End 03/2020
 
Description NERC standard grant
Amount £800,000 (GBP)
Funding ID NE/R000921/1 
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2018 
End 12/2021
 
Description PhD studentship with Edwards Ltd.
Amount £81,000 (GBP)
Organisation Edwards 
Sector Private
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2015 
End 03/2019
 
Description Advanced Global Atmospheric Gases Experiment (AGAGE) 
Organisation Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation
Country Australia 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution International programme to measure and model atmospheric trace gases
Collaborator Contribution Data provision. Model development.
Impact Several publications (e.g. Rigby et al., 2013; 2014).
Start Year 2008
 
Description Advanced Global Atmospheric Gases Experiment (AGAGE) 
Organisation Empa - Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology
Country Switzerland 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution International programme to measure and model atmospheric trace gases
Collaborator Contribution Data provision. Model development.
Impact Several publications (e.g. Rigby et al., 2013; 2014).
Start Year 2008
 
Description Advanced Global Atmospheric Gases Experiment (AGAGE) 
Organisation Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution International programme to measure and model atmospheric trace gases
Collaborator Contribution Data provision. Model development.
Impact Several publications (e.g. Rigby et al., 2013; 2014).
Start Year 2008
 
Description Met Office 
Organisation Meteorological Office UK
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Expertise in inverse methods
Collaborator Contribution Exertise in atmospheric modelling
Impact Publications.
Start Year 2012
 
Description NASA JPL 
Organisation National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
Department Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Country United States 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Statistical investigation of model parameterisations in OCO-2 retrieval code.
Collaborator Contribution Provision of data and model output.
Impact No outcomes yet
Start Year 2016
 
Description National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Earth System Research Laboratory (ESRL) 
Organisation National Oceanic And Atmospheric Administration
Department Earth System Research Laboratory (ESRL)
Country United States 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Modelling of greenhouse gases.
Collaborator Contribution Provision of greenhouse gas data and expertise
Impact Several publications have resulted from this collaboration.
Start Year 2012
 
Description University of Wollongong 
Organisation University of Wollongong
Country Australia 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Model runs, data provision and processing, expertise in atmospheric modelling and statistics.
Collaborator Contribution Expertise in statistics
Impact Several publications, with further work in the pipeline.
Start Year 2013
 
Description Carbon tetrachloride workshop: Solving the carbon tetrachloride mystery 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact A workshop to determine the global budget of carbon tetrachloride, a potent ozone depleting substance. A report of the workshop is in progress and will be disseminated to policy makers involved in the Montreal Protocol.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015,2016
URL http://www.sparc-climate.org/news/news/news/2015/02/19/workshop-on-solving-the-mystery-of-carbon-tet...
 
Description WMO Integrated Greenhouse Gas Information System (IG3IS) workshop on Moroccan, South African and Brazilian emissions 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Workshop with three countries to develop strategies for setting up greenhouse gas monitoring capabilities in each.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016,2017