Ocean Mist

Issues and trends shaping our environment, health and economy

15 Oct 2016

More climate progress

Posted by Michael Keating

Today nearly 200 countries put more specifics on promises to stop climate change by agreeing to reduce use of one of the more powerful greenhouse gases. In Kigali, Rwanda, they reached a deal to reduce emissions of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), something that could prevent up to 0.5 degrees Celsius of global warming by the end of this century. HFCs are commonly used in refrigeration and air conditioning. The United Nations says they are currently the world’s fastest growing greenhouse gases, with emissions increasing by up to 10 per cent a year. The phase out does not start until 2019, and is expected to take several decades.

Ironically, the HFCs were seen as a “safer” substitute for the chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) that were destroying the planet’s protective ozone layer. As a reporter, I covered the 1987 conference that resulted in the Montreal Protocol to phase out use of CFCs and the related HCFCs. As part of the deal, the world was allowed to use HFCs. This was at a time when climate change was still an emerging issue, and did not dominate the environmental agenda. As a result, the world missed an opportunity to slay two dragons at a time. With the growing use of refrigeration and air conditioning in the world, especially in warmer countries, the use of HFCs has grown dramatically. This has pushed off the date by which they can realistically be replaced.


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