The agreement reached in Kigali, Rwanda on October 15 2016, to regulate the use of the hydrochlorofluorocarbons ( HFC’s) in air conditioners and refrigerators, is expected to lead to the reduction of the equivalent of 70 billion tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and “is the single largest contribution the world has made towards keeping the global temperature rise ‘well below’ 2 degrees Celsius”, according to the UNEP Press release about the agreement. The 197 countries which had previously been party to the Montreal Protocol reached a compromise, under which developed countries will start to phase down HFC’s by 2019. The deadline for some developing countries to freeze their HFC’s consumption levels is 2024, and some of the world’s hottest countries (India, Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait) will have the most lenient deadlines, to freeze HFC use by 2028 and reduce it to about 15 percent of 2025 levels by 2047. Read the New York Times report here , or the National Observer report here , and for background, an August NYT article, “How bad is your air conditioner for the planet?“. For a legal perspective, see “Cutting HFC’s under the Montreal Protocol – A few thoughts” from the Legal Planet blog of UCLA Berkeley.
The Kigali agreement is seen as a powerful positive symbol: “It is a clear statement by all world leaders that the green transformation started in Paris is irreversible and unstoppable.” But though it is seen as a much stronger commitment than the Paris Agreement, it also requires ratification by two-thirds of the parties to come into force, and may not be “unstoppable”. According to Climate Central, ” American experts on international environmental law say ratifying the new HFC agreement would almost certainly require a two-thirds vote from the Senate”. In other words, even more is now riding on the U.S. election on November 8. A Globe and Mail article on October 16 expanded on the brief government press release , quoting the Canadian Environment and Climate Change Minister, who pledged: “Ottawa will adopt regulations to reduce the use of the chemicals in the coming years. The government will provide rules and incentives for the destruction of existing HFCs.”