Nations commit to eliminating HFCs

This is huge news. World leaders have just signed an amendment to the Montreal Protocol that will phase out hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), a major greenhouse gas used in air-conditioners and refrigerators. This is a legally-binding treaty, with consequences for non-compliance. The New York Times has the details:

While the Paris agreement included pledges by nearly every country to cut emissions of heat-trapping carbon dioxide from the fossil fuels that power vehicles, electric plants and factories, the new Kigali deal has a single target: chemical coolants called hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, used in air-conditioners and refrigerators.

 

HFCs are just a small percentage of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, but they function as a sort of supercharged greenhouse gas, with 1,000 times the heat-trapping potency of carbon dioxide.

While the Paris pledges are broad, they are also voluntary, often vague and dependent on the political will of future world leaders. In contrast, the Kigali deal includes specific targets and timetables to replace HFCs with more planet-friendly alternatives, trade sanctions to punish scofflaws, and an agreement by rich countries to help finance the transition of poor countries to the costlier replacement products.

So, narrow as it is, the new accord may be more likely to yield climate-shielding actions by industry and governments, negotiators say. And given the heat-trapping power of HFCs, scientists say the Kigali accord will stave off an increase of atmospheric temperatures of nearly one degree Fahrenheit.

Which is all fantastic news.  But as Climate Interactive explains, this agreement merely locks in voluntary emission reductions pledges already made as part of the Paris Agreement.  In other words, the projected 1°F (0.5°C) reduction is already baked in to analyses of the impacts of the Paris pledges. We’ll have to look elsewhere to close the gap between the pledges made in Paris and what’s needed to limit warming to 1.5-2°C.

Further reading:

The Kigali Deal on HFCs Is Important but Won’t Save us Another Half a Degree
Banning the ‘super’ greenhouse gas