Global deal reached to limit pow­er­ful green­house gases

Malta Independent - - BUSINESS -

Nearly 200 na­tions have reached a deal, an­nounced Satur­day morn­ing af­ter all-night ne­go­ti­a­tions, to limit the use of green­house gases far more pow­er­ful than car­bon diox­ide in a ma­jor ef­fort to fight climate change.

The talks on hy­droflu­o­ro­car­bons, or HFCs, were called the first test of global will since the his­toric Paris Agree­ment to cut car­bon emis­sions was reached last year. HFCs are de­scribed as the world’s fastest-grow­ing climate pol­lu­tant and are used in air con­di­tion­ers and re­frig­er­a­tors. Ex­perts say cut­ting them is the fastest way to re­duce global warm­ing.

Pres­i­dent Barack Obama, in a state­ment Satur­day, called the new deal “an am­bi­tious and far-reach­ing so­lu­tion to this loom­ing cri­sis.” The spokesman for U.N. Sec­re­taryGen­eral Ban Ki-moon called it “crit­i­cally im­por­tant.”

The agree­ment, un­like the broader Paris one, is legally bind­ing. It caps and re­duces the use of HFCs in a grad­ual process be­gin­ning by 2019 with ac­tion by de­vel­oped coun­tries in­clud­ing the United States, the world’s sec­ond­worst pol­luter. More than 100 de­vel­op­ing coun­tries, in­clud­ing China, the world’s top car­bon emit­ter, will start tak­ing ac­tion by 2024, when HFC con­sump­tion lev­els should peak.

A small group of coun­tries in­clud­ing In­dia, Pak­istan and some Gulf states pushed for and se­cured a later start in 2028, say­ing their economies need more time to grow. That’s three years ear­lier than In­dia, the world’s third-worst pol­luter, had first pro­posed.

“It’s a very his­toric mo­ment, and we are all very de­lighted that we have come to this point where we can reach a con­sen­sus and agree to most of the is­sues that were on the ta­ble,” said In­dia’s chief del­e­gate, Ajay Narayan Jha.

En­vi­ron­men­tal groups had hoped that the deal could re­duce global warm­ing by a half-de­gree Cel­sius by the end of this cen­tury. This agree­ment gets about 90 per­cent of the way there, said Dur­wood Zaelke, pres­i­dent of the In­sti­tute for Gover­nance and Sus­tain­able Devel­op­ment.

Zaelke’s group said this is the “largest tem­per­a­ture re­duc­tion ever achieved by a sin­gle agree­ment.”

The new agree­ment is “equal to stop­ping the en­tire world’s fos­sil­fuel CO2 emis­sions for more than two years,” David Doniger, climate and clean air pro­gram di­rec­tor with the Nat­u­ral Re­sources De­fense Coun­cil, said in a state­ment.

It is es­ti­mated that the agree­ment will cut the global lev­els of HFCs by 80 to 85 per­cent by 2047, the World Re­sources In­sti­tute said in a state­ment.

Ex­perts said they hope that mar­ket forces will help speed up the lim­its agreed to in the deal.

HFCs were in­tro­duced in the 1980s as a sub­sti­tute for ozone-de­plet­ing gases. But their dan­ger has grown as air con­di­tioner and re­frig­er­a­tor sales have soared in emerg­ing economies like China and In­dia. HFCs are also found in in­halers and in­su­lat­ing foams.

Ma­jor economies have de­bated how quickly to phase out HFCs. The United States, whose del­e­ga­tion was led by Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry, and West­ern coun­tries want quick ac­tion. Na­tions such as In­dia want to give their in­dus­tries more time to ad­just.

“Thank God we got to this agree­ment that is good for all na­tions, that takes into con­sid­er­a­tion all re­gional and na­tional is­sues,” said Taha Mo­hamed Zatari, the head of Saudi Ara­bia’s ne­go­ti­at­ing team.

Small is­land states and many African coun­tries had pushed for early time­frames, say­ing they face the big­gest threat from climate change.

“It may not be en­tirely what the is­lands wanted, but it is a good deal,” Mat­t­lan Zackhras, the min­is­ter-in-as­sis­tance to the pres­i­dent of the Mar­shall Is­lands, said in a state­ment. “We all know we must go fur­ther, and we will go fur­ther.”

The U.N. says the next meet­ing in 2017 will de­ter­mine how much of the bil­lions of dol­lars needed to fi­nance the re­duc­tion of HFCs will be pro­vided by coun­tries.

HFCs are less plen­ti­ful than car­bon diox­ide, but Kerry said last month that they cur­rently emit as much pol­lu­tion as 300 coal-fired power plants each year. That amount will rise sig­nif­i­cantly over the com­ing decades as air con­di­tion­ing units and re­frig­er­a­tors reach hun­dreds of mil­lions of new peo­ple.

HFCs don’t harm the ozone layer like chlo­roflu­o­ro­car­bons and sim­i­lar gases that were elim­i­nated un­der the 1987 Mon­treal Pro­to­col. The en­tire world rat­i­fied that agree­ment, help­ing to re­pair holes in the ozone that helps shield the planet from the harm­ful rays of the sun. The aim of this meet­ing was to at­tach an amend­ment to that treaty deal­ing specif­i­cally with HFCs.

“This is about much more than the ozone layer and HFCs. It is a clear state­ment by all world lead­ers that the green trans­for­ma­tion started in Paris is ir­re­versible and un­stop­pable,” Erik Sol­heim, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the U.N. En­vi­ron­ment Pro­gram, said in a state­ment.

En­vi­ron­men­tal groups were al­ready turn­ing at­ten­tion Satur­day to other green­house gases like car­bon diox­ide.

“Act­ing on HFCs does not ex­empt us from act­ing on CO2 or other im­por­tant green­house gases like meth­ane. We emit con­sid­er­ably more car­bon, and it lingers in the at­mos­phere for more than 500 years,” Carol Werner, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the En­vi­ron­men­tal and En­ergy Study In­sti­tute, said in a state­ment.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malta

© PressReader. All rights reserved.