HFCs agreement aims to reduce global warming
A 0.5 K curbing of the overall rise in global temperature is expected to be achieved by the phasing out of HFCs (hydro-fluoro-carbons), potent greenhouse gases that are used in refrigerants such as R410A, in the agreement by nearly 200 countries at the 28th meeting of the parties to the Montreal Protocol in Kigali, Rwanda, last month. The agreement reflects existing EU policy to dramatically reduce the use of HFCs. And that 0.5 K is a significant proportion of the 2 K maximum rise that the recent Paris Agreement seeks to achieve.
The agreement will be implemented in three stages.
The first group includes counties such as the USA and members of the EU. Their production and use of HFCs will cease by 2018 and their use reduced by about 85% of 2012 levels by 2036.
The second group comprises countries such as China, Brazil and all of Africa The use of HFCs will cease by 2024 and be reduced by about 80% of use in 2021 by 2045.
The third group includes India, Pakistan, Iran and Saudi Arabia. The year for freezing the use of HFCs is 2028, followed by an 85% reduction of 2025 levels by 2047.
This agreement extends the scope of the 1987 Montreal Protocol to control the use of gases that broke down ozone molecules in the ozone layer.
HFCs, although not affecting ozone, have a high global-warming potential GWP; R410A, for example has a GWP 2088 times greater than carbon dioxide.
While HFCs are responsible for only 5% of total global greenhouse-gas emissions, rapid growth in their use for applications such as air conditioning could, if unchecked, account for 19% of global emissions by 2050.
The European Partnership for Energy & the Environment (EPEE) has welcomed the agreement. Director General Andrea Voigt said, ‘The Kigali amendment on a global phase-down of HFCs is a long-awaited breakthrough and, after the Paris Agreement, the second major milestone for our climate.
‘Now we have to make it happen, and ensure that energy efficiency is taken into consideration. This is because the transition towards lower-GWP refrigerants needs to go hand in hand with high energy efficiency if we are serious about reducing overall CO2 emissions.’