Global deal to phase-out HFCs reached in Kigali

On Saturday, Oct. 15, nearly 200 countries have adopted an amendment to the Montreal Protocol to reduce emissions of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) at a conference in Rwanda’s capital Kigali. According to UNEP, this is the “single largest contribution the world has made” towards achieving the well below 2°C target of the Paris climate deal.

The Kigali Amendment is legally-binding and comprises clear timetables. Accordingly, HFCs consumption will be reduced in developed countries by 2019, while developing countries’ emissions will be frozen in 2024 and 2028. By the late 2040s, all countries will have reached substantial reductions compared to their baselines of more than 80 percent.

While some richer nations, such as Europe and the United States, have already started to tackle their HFC emissions, China and most of other developing countries will start doing so in 2024, Reuters reports. India, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan and the Gulf countries will start later in 2028 due to economic concerns and the high air temperatures in these countries. The commitments of many developing countries, including small island states and African countries, reflects the announcement of more than 100 countries weeks ago to secure an ambitious HFC amendment. But also India did agree to an earlier date of action than initially demanded.

The agreement to reduce emissions of HFCs includes a support package in order to reach the objectives. The exact amount of additional funding will be determined only at the next meeting under the Montreal Protocol in 2017. However, some weeks ago, donor countries and philanthropists already announced to provide USD 80 million.

According to the Guardian, the agreement in Kigali can be attributed to several factors such as the readiness of major chemical and food companies to take action, the determination of the US to get a deal before the presidential elections and the willingness of developing countries to invest in new clean technologies.

HFCs were deployed as substitutes for ozone-depleting substances and are mostly used in refrigerators and air conditioning. The HFC Amendment was negotiated under the Montreal Protocol which was set up to tackle ozone depletion. As the ozone hole in Antarctica is slowly recovering, the Montreal Protocol is seen as the most successful international environmental agreement that has been adopted.

The HFC Amendment is seen crucial as it is expected to prevent up to 0.5°C of global temperature increase, according to UNEP. HFCs are potent and fast-growing greenhouse gases, with a yearly rise of nearly 10 percent. This rapid growth is mainly caused by rising demand for cooling systems, particularly in developing countries. The Global Warming Potential of HFCs is hundreds to thousands of times higher than CO2.

According to BBC, in the history of the Montreal Protocol the adoption of new regulation has always led  to a fast development of alternatives, which eventually enabled faster phase-out dates than initially determined. The same is now hoped for the HFCs.

The HFC Amendment is another important step, coming just after a global deal to curb emissions from international aviation and the crossing of the thresholds for entry into force of the Paris climate change agreement.


(Image: Photo by IISD/ENB | Kiara Worth)