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Ratification of Kigali Amendment Points Toward 0.5°C Reduction in Future Warming

The Kigali Amendment to ban climate-busting hydrofluorocarbons will officially enter into force on January 1, 2019, completing an international diplomatic process aimed at reducing future global warming by at least 0.5°C.

Nearly 200 countries adopted the amendment to the 1987 Montreal Protocol on ozone-depleting substances in October 2016, during a negotiating session in Kigali, Rwanda. But at least 20 had to ratify the deal before it became international law. That ratification came Friday, with Sweden officially signing on.

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“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,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said at the time.

“We came to take a half a degree Celsius out of future warming, and we won about 90% of our climate prize,” added Durwood Zaelke of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development.

Just a few days ago, negotiators at the United Nations climate change conference in Bonn were looking ahead to a meeting this week in Montreal to mark the 30th anniversary of the original ozone agreement, hoping to celebrate the new amendment’s official status alongside the longer-standing commemoration. The list of ratifying countries, now up to 21, includes Australia, Canada, Chile, Comoros, Finland, Germany, Laos, Luxembourg, Maldives, Mali, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Norway, North Korea, Palau, Rwanda, Slovakia, Sweden, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu, and the United Kingdom.

In a UN Environment Programme news release, Canadian Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna called the milestone “a major step forward”, adding that the Montreal meeting “will celebrate this success and continue building momentum on global climate action.”

The amendment’s staunchest advocates say the entry into force “sends a message to companies that make the compounds and to companies that use coolants in their products that they will have to come up with alternatives,” the New York Times reports. “That’s a powerful signal to the market that they’d better continue to adjust their investment decisions and their production to meet the standards under this amendment,” Zaelke said.

“Now the question is, will the U.S. ratify the amendment so American chemical companies can gain full access to new global markets for replacement chemicals,” added Paul Bledsoe, a former climate advisor to the Clinton White House. While China hasn’t yet ratified the amendment, Zaelke said it is expected to.

After the amendment enters into force, it will take effect in stages, the Washington Post explained last year. 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.