17 October 2016

Landmark climate change deal struck this weekend

Nearly 200 nations have agreed to a legally binding deal to cut back on greenhouse gases used in refrigerators and air conditioners.

The deal was struck during talks in the Rwandan capital of Kigali late on Friday evening, and announced on Saturday.

Under the pact, developed nations, including much of Europe and the United States, commit to reducing their use of the gases, starting with a 10 per cent cut by 2019 and reaching 85 per cent by 2036.

Countries are divided into three groups with different deadlines to reduce the use of factory-made hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) – recently a cause of international concern due to their atmospheric concentrations and contribution to anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.

Scientific research has shown that HFC gases are thousands of times more destructive to the climate than carbon dioxide, and their growing use threatens to undermine the Paris Agreement.

The major cause of debate was how fast to phase out HFCs. The US and other western countries rallied for quick action whereas nations such as India, Pakistan and some gulf states wanted 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.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the deal was “a monumental step forward” in the fight against climate change.

Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme, Erik Solheim, said: “Last year in Paris, we promised to keep the world safe from the worst effects of climate change. Today, we are following through on that promise.”

Unlike the Paris agreement, the Kigali deal is legally binding, has very specific timetables and involves the agreement by rich countries to help poor countries adapt their technology.

Durwood Zaelke, President of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development, said the Kigali deal will mean the “largest temperature reduction ever achieved by a single agreement”.

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