The battle against climate change leapfrogged to new heights with the Paris Climate Deal last year and now it has reached new heights with nearly 200 countries agreeing to production and consumption of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which are considered to be super greenhouse gases – far more potent than carbon dioxide.
HFCs inherently trap much more heat and that’s one of the primary reasons they are used coolants in refrigerators and air conditioners. While this is a desirable quality for our cooling needs, the same property of these gases make them super greenhouse gases as they can trap much more heat than normal while free in our atmosphere thereby contributing immensely to total warming of our Earth.
Experts consider this as a landmark deal that will enable us to achieve the United Nations’s goal to roll back global warming. The agreement was greeted by applause from exhausted envoys who worked through the night in Rwanda’s capital Kigali to put the finishing touches on the deal.
US President Barack Obama said in a White House statement that the agreement was “an ambitious and far-reaching solution to (the) looming crisis” of climate change. It adds powerfully to the 2015 Paris Agreement, due to take effect next month after crossing the threshold for ratification by signatory countries, Obama said.
“Together, these steps show that, while diplomacy is never easy, we can work together to leave our children a planet that is safer, more prosperous, more secure, and more free than the one that was left for us.”
World Wildlife Fund also welcomed the deal stating that it was “great news for the climate” and that it sends a powerful message that globally authorities are becoming more serious about climate change and are taking steps necessary to tackle the issue.
Eliminating HFCs — which are dealt with under the Montreal Protocol, not the Paris Agreement — could be a relatively swift and easy way to ease the warming and buy time, say specialists. It could reduce global warming by 0.5 C by 2100, according to a 2015 study by the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development.
HFCs were introduced in the 1990s to replace chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) that had been found to erode the ozone layer, the stratospheric shield which protects life on Earth from damaging solar radiation.
But it emerged that HFCs, while safer for the now-healing ozone layer, are potentially thousands of times worse for trapping heat than CO2. Swapping HFCs for alternatives such as ammonia, water or gases called hydrofluoroolefins could prove expensive for hot developing countries, where air-conditioner use is soaring.
HFCs and Developing Countries
Under the legally binding deal, developed countries must slash their use of HFCs by 10 percent by 2019 from 2011-2013 levels, and then by 85 percent by 2036.
A second group of developing countries, including China and African nations, are committed to launching the transition in 2024. A reduction of 10 percent compared with 2020-2022 levels should be achieved by 2029, to be extended to 80 percent by 2045.
A third group of developing countries, including India, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq and Gulf nations, must begin the process in 2028 and reduce emissions by 10 percent by 2032 from 2024-2026 levels, and then by 85 percent by 2047. Under the agreement, rich countries will move faster than developing giants to scrapping HFCs — a concession that was a source of regret for some.
Paris Climate Deal
Paris Climate Deal was an unprecedented one wherein the aim is to keep global warming below two degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit), compared with pre-industrial levels, but the gas being targeted mainly is carbon dioxide (CO2), which is emitted through the use of fossil fuels. As these sources are the mainstays of the world’s energy supply, reducing carbon pollution has been a painfully slow and rancorous affair, marked by bickering over who should shoulder the burden for energy efficiency and the switch to cleaner sources.
Right now, Earth is on track for several degrees of warming by century’s end — a scenario that climatologists fear will doom the planet to worse droughts, floods, storms and rising seas.