Kigali amendment - a landmark deal to cut greenhouse gases

Kigali amendment - a landmark deal to cut greenhouse gases

The agreement reached in Kigali on greenhouse gases has been hailed as a huge step forward in the battle against climate change. Chris Norton, special counsel at Baker Botts, explains its significance and why finding alternatives to hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) is good news for economies as well as for the climate.

Nearly 200 countries have signed an agreement to reduce the emissions of powerful greenhouse gases—HFCs. The deal could prevent up to 0.5°C of global warming by the end of the century. Following seven years of negotiations, the 197 Montreal Protocol parties have agreed developed countries will start to phase down HFCs by 2019. Developing countries will follow with a freeze of HFC consumption levels in 2024, with some countries freezing consumption in 2028.

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What are HFCs and what impact do they have on the environment?

HFCs consist of any of the several organic compounds composed of hydrogen, fluorine, and carbon. HFCs are produced synthetically and have several common uses such as in:

  • air conditioning units
  • domestic and commercial refrigerators
  • dehumidifiers
  • water coolers
  • aerosol products
  • fire extinguishers, and
  • pre-polymers

HFCs have zero ozone depletion potential but are potent greenhouse gases that can cause significant damage to the Earth by trapping solar radiation and redirecting it towards the earth leading to global warming.

Scientific estimates have suggested that the use of HFCs could contribute 0.5°C to average global temperatures by the end of the century.

What is the background to the Kigali agreement?

The Montreal Protocol which came into force on 1 January 1989 pioneered the global approach to tackling climate change by placing restrictions on the use of certain chemical substances and imposing worldwide emissions targets. The original agreement listed various chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) as controlled substances as they had been shown to cause damage to the ozone layer. In response to this, many CFCs were replaced by HFCs without a real understanding of the damage they too were doing to the Earth.

The Montreal Protocol has seen five amendments since it was originally ratified

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