Global deal reached to limit pow­er­ful green­house gases

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - NEWS - By Bradley Klap­per and Ig­natius Ssu­una

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. Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral 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 sec­ond-worst 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 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.

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 min­is­terin-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 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. The group of na­tions gath­ered in Ki­gali, are striv­ing Fri­day for a deal to phase out hy­droflu­o­ro­car­bons from air con­di­tion­ers and re­frig­er­a­tors as part of ef­forts to fight cli­mate change.

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