Nearly 200 countries resolved last week during a negotiating session in Kigali, Rwanda to phase down their use of hydrofluorocarbons, a climate-busting greenhouse gas that was on track to produce another 0.5°C of average global warming before the agreement was reached.
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) calculated that the “Kigali Amendment” to the 1987 Montreal Protocol on chlorfluorocarbons will take the equivalent of 80 billion tons (80 gigatons) of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere over the next 35 years, the Washington Post reports.
“Today’s agreement caps off a critical 10 days in our global efforts to combat climate change,” said President Barack Obama, whose administration had pushed hard for the deal. “While diplomacy is never easy, we can work together to leave our children a planet that is safer, more prosperous, more secure, and more free than the one that was left for us.”
“It is not often you get a chance to have a 0.5°C reduction by taking one single step together as countries—each doing different things perhaps at different times, but getting the job done,” added U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
The amendment will take effect in stages, the Post explains. Developed countries will freeze their HFC emissions and begin ratcheting them down in 2019. The majority of developing countries will follow suit in 2024, while a handful of nations like India and Pakistan will peak in 2028. “We came to take a half a degree Celsius out of future warming, and we won about 90% of our climate prize,” said Durwood Zaelke of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development.
Which means “this is a major breakthrough,” said NRDC Climate and Clean Air Program Director David Doniger. “This is the biggest step we can take in the year after the Paris Agreement against the widening threats from climate change. And bringing HFCs under the Montreal Protocol sends a clear signal to the global marketplace to start replacing these dangerous chemicals with a new generation of climate-friendly and energy-efficient alternatives.”
“The agreement reflects the willingness of all parties to take action on climate change,” agreed Chandra Bhushan, deputy director of the Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment. “What we have achieved at Kigali is the beginning. We can build on this success and further enhance climate actions by countries under the Montreal Protocol and in other climate agreements, especially the Paris Agreement,”
But Greenpeace International Global Strategist Paula Tejón Carbajal warned that “the success of this agreement will be determined by how much developing countries can leapfrog HFCs and how much countries can avoid yet another chemical alternative like toxic HFOs and adopt natural refrigerants. This will be decisive in the coming months and years.”
Christian Aid Senior Policy Advisor Benson Ireri added that “to aid the switch to newer and safer natural refrigerants, sufficient funding will be required through the Montreal Protocol’s Multilateral Fund to enable poorer countries to invest in the new technology. It is vital that developed countries also share their progress on technological breakthroughs.”