Nearly 200 countries have reached a major deal to phase out greenhouse gases used in refrigerators and air conditioners in a bid to counter global warming. The agreement was hammered out on Saturday at the 28th Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer.
“The amendment [to the Montreal Protocol] and decisions are adopted,” said Rwanda’s Minister of Natural Resources Vincent Biruta, who presided over the meeting, held in the country’s capital city of Kigali. The Montreal Protocol was adopted in 1987 after scientists recognized that chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and similar gases were destroying the protective layer of ozone in the stratosphere.
The aim of the Kigali meeting was to attach an amendment to the treaty dealing specifically with factory-made Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), industrial gases with a high global warming potential. Under the pact agreed on Saturday, developed countries, including much of Europe and the US, commit to reducing their use of the HFCs incrementally, starting with a 10 percent cut by 2019 and reaching 85 percent by 2036.
Several developing states will also freeze their use of the gases by either 2024 or 2028. “This is a huge win for the climate,” said Miguel Arias Canete, a commissioner with the European Union in a statement ahead of the adoption of the agreement. He further noted that the global phase-down “could knock off up to half a degree of warming by the end of the century.” HFCs were introduced to replace chemicals that had been found to erode the ozone layer, but they turned out to cause much greater levels of global warming than CO2.
The danger posed by the gases to the environment has grown as air conditioner and refrigerator sales have soared in emerging economies across the world. Supporters of the fresh deal believe that it will build on the foundations laid by the Paris Agreement on limiting global temperatures rises. The Paris accord was signed by over 190 countries last December and is expected to become operational early in November.
Environmental groups hope the deal agreed in Kigali could reduce global warming by a half-degree Celsius by the end of this century. The new agreement is “equal to stopping the entire world’s fossil-fuel CO2 emissions for more than two years,” said David Doniger, climate and clean air program director with the Natural Resources Defense Council, a New York City-based, non-profit international environmental advocacy group.