Na­tions reach deal to re­duce HFCs, en­vi­ron­men­tal groups say

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - WEATHER - By Bradley Klap­per

KIGALI, RWANDA>> En­vi­ron­men­tal groups early Satur­day said na­tions have reached a deal to limit the use of green­house gases far more pow­er­ful than car­bon diox­ide as part of ef­forts to fight cli­mate change.

At is­sue are hy­droflu­o­ro­car­bons, or HFCs, which are used in air con­di­tion­ers and re­frig­er­a­tors and have been de­scribed as the world’s fastest-grow­ing cli­mate pol­lu­tants.

Ob­servers said the agree­ment, set to be an­nounced shortly, would cap the use of HFCs be­gin­ning in 2019, led by de­vel­oped coun­tries in­clud­ing the United States, the world’s sec­ond worst pol­luter. More than 100 de­vel­op­ing coun­tries in­clud­ing China, the world’s top car­bon emit­ter, would start tak­ing ac­tion in 2024.

Ob­servers said a small group of coun­tries in­clud­ing In­dia, Pak­istan and some Mid­dle East states pushed for and se­cured a later start in 2028, ar­gu­ing that their economies need more time to grow. That’s three years ear­lier than In­dia, the world’s third worst pol­luter, had first pro­posed. Sci­en­tists have said an agree­ment could put a half-de­gree Cel­sius dent in global warm­ing by the end of the cen­tury.

“Com­pro­mises had to be made, but 85 per­cent of de­vel­op­ing coun­tries have com­mit­ted to the early sched­ule start­ing 2024, which is a very sig­nif­i­cant achieve­ment,” Clare Perry, UK Cli­mate Cam­paign Leader with the En­vi­ron­men­tal In­ves­ti­ga­tion Agency, said in a state­ment.

En­vi­ron­men­tal groups called this meet­ing the first real test of global will af­ter the his­toric Paris Agree­ment to cut car­bon emis­sions was reached last year.

The new agree­ment is “equal to stop­ping the en­tire world’s fos­sil-fuel 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.

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 fast 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.

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

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

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.

Sci­en­tists have said an agree­ment could put a half-de­gree Cel­sius dent in global warm­ing by the end of the cen­tury.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry de­liv­ers a speech to the 28th Meet­ing of the Par­ties to the Mon­treal Pro­to­col on Sub­stances that De­plete the Ozone Layer, in Kigali, Rwanda Fri­day.

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