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Nigeria, 196 others agree to ban refrigerants

By Chinedum Uwaegbulam and Chukwuma Muanya   |   17 October 2016   |   4:23 am


Negotiators from Nigeria and 196 other countries have reached an historic agreement to reduce emissions of chemical refrigerants such as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) that contribute to global warming.

HFCs are used as refrigerants in appliances such as air conditioners. HFCs are a small but growing slice of world’s greenhouse-gas emissions. Scientists project that HFCs could contribute up to 0.5 degree Celsius (°C) of warming by the end of the century if left unchecked.

The deal, according to a report published yesterday in the journal Nature, which was finalized Saturday at a United Nations meeting in Kigali, Rwanda, could reduce projected emissions by as much as 88 per cent over the course of the 21st century.

Atmospheric scientist at the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment in Bilthoven, Netherlands, Guus Velders, said: “It’s a great deal for the climate.”

The pact represents a major expansion of the 1987 Montreal Protocol, which was intended to halt the destruction of the Earth’s protective ozone layer. That treaty successfully curbed use of ozone-depleting chemicals used as refrigerants and in other industrial processes, but many of their replacements-known as HFCs-are potent greenhouse gases.

Governments will now use the Montreal agreement to promote a new generation of chemicals that are safe for the climate as well as the ozone layer.

Velders’ calculations suggest that contribution could be slashed to just 0.06 °C, assuming that countries stick to the schedules laid out in the Kigali agreement.

The pact comes amid a flurry of international activity to address climate change. On October 6, the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization struck a deal intended to slow the growth in emissions from international aviation. A day earlier the European Union pushed the world across a critical threshold by joining the 2015 Paris climate agreement, ensuring that the pact would enter into force this year.

President of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development, an advocacy group based in Washington DC, United States (U.S.), Durwood Zaelke, said: “We are extraordinarily confident that this treaty will deliver.”

One difference is that the chemical industry has been able to develop viable alternatives to the chemicals in question. Developed countries then move first and help pay for developing countries to make the conversion later.

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