Global Agreement Targets HFC Emissions

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October 16, 2016

More than 170 countries have agreed to limit the use of hydrofluorocarbons, after down-to-the-wire negotiations concluded at a world summit in Kigali, Rwanda.

The year that the countries agreed that they will begin taking action is 2019. That is the year that the U.S., the world’s second-largest polluter, and the European Union committed to begin. China, the largest polluter on the planet, will start in 2024, along with more than 100 developing countries.

A few countries, notably India and Pakistan a few Middle Eastern countires, won permission to start in 2028, to allow their economies time to grow and plan for the transition away from a high dependence on hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), a main contributor to the level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Air conditioning is a prime producer of HFCs, which are many, many times more destructive to the world climate than carbondioxide. Also producing large amounts of HFCs are aerosol sprays and refrigerators. Ironically, countries embraced HFCs in the late 20th Century in a switch from chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and other ozone-depleting gases.

The United Nations Ozone commission will provide support and monitoring in the form of local hubs around the world, following an established pattern that has helped reduce CFC emissions for several years.

Officially, this new agreement is an amendment to the Montreal Protocol, a 1989 agreement aimed at ending the use of CFCs.

The Kagili amendment is the third significant climate agreement in a year’s time. The Paris Agreement, in late 2015, was a pledge by 195 countries to work toward reducing greenhouse gases; it was the first legally binding global climate deal. And in September 2016, countries signed on to the ICAO Agreement, a pledge to put a cap on emissions from international air transport.

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