Environmentalists buoyant as the Kigali Amendment enters into force

The Minister for Environment, Dr Vincent Biruta, pounds the gavel after nations agreed on the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol on the phasing down of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) in Kigali in October 2016. The Kigali Amendment entered into force on January 1, 2019, paving way for the world to reduce the powerful climate-warming gases by more than 80 per cent in the next 30 years. File.

The Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol has entered into force, paving way for nations to reduce powerful climate-warming gases known as Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) by more than 80 per cent in the next 30 years.

January 1, 2019 is the earliest date set by the treaty for 20 ratifications—the threshold for the agreement to be implemented.

The landmark Kigali Amendment took seven years of negotiations.

The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer is an international treaty designed to protect the ozone layer – a region of the earth’s atmosphere that absorbs the sun’s harmful ultraviolet radiation – by phasing out the production of numerous substances that are responsible for ozone depletion.

The Kigali treaty, often described as an “historic environmental milestone” is the single most impactful step the world has taken to limit Climate Change and will avoid up to 0.5°C of warming by 2100, officials say.

In November 2017, Sweden became the 20th country that ratified the  Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, offering the treaty a chance to meet the threshold for the agreement to come into force a year before the set target.

Some 65 countries have already ratified the treaty.

Joyce Msuya, the Acting Head of the United Nations Environment Programme, is upbeat that the Kigali Amendment coming into force this year could make “real” impact towards fighting global warming.

“Beginning 2019 on a note of optimism: The Kigali amendment to the Montreal Protocol has entered into force. This can help us make a real and positive impact on our warming planet! #climateaction,” Msuya tweeted.

Her predecessor, who also championed the Kigali Amendment in Kigali in 2016, Erik Solheim, said that the treaty coming into force is a “great step” towards climate change mitigation.

“The Montreal protocol is the most successful international agreement of any time.  Fully implemented by all nations,” Solheim tweeted.

He added, “Now the world has taken the next great step forward. The Kigali Amendment is entering into force. Warm congrats to Rwanda and all those who made history!”

The Minister of Environment, Vincent Biruta, told The New Times, yesterday, that the actual historic moment was reached in 2017 when the 20th country submitted letters of ratifications.

Also readEU's ratification of Kigali Amendment to Montreal Protocol 'a huge step forward'

He noted that the most important job ahead is to see how countries will show similar commitment in implementing the Kigali amendment to achieve a global reduction in the consumption and production of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), one type of the gases that contribute to the warming of earth’s atmosphere.

On Rwanda’s part, he said, the government has already designed an implementation plan 

“Some countries have shown strong commitment toward reducing the consumption and production of hydrofluorocarbons but the world needs to move as whole,” Biruta said.

Although greenhouse gases do not damage the ozone layer, their release into the atmosphere contributes to climate change and they have a significant impact on global warming, the phenomenon of increasing average air temperatures near the surface of Earth over the past two centuries, experts say.

The implementation of the Kigali Amendment is expected to prevent warming of up to 0.5° Celsius by the end of the century, thus making a positive contribution to reaching the targets of the 2016 Paris climate agreement.

“HFCs are thousands of times more harmful to the climate than carbon dioxide. I welcome the decision,” Siim Kiisler, the Minister of the Environment of Estonia, was quoted as saying, recently.

The HFCs can be found in equipment and products used in daily life such as fridges, air conditioners, foams and aerosol sprays.

The Montreal Protocol has been amended a fifth time to reduce HFCs. This Amendment was adopted at the 28th Meeting of the Parties in October 2016 held in Kigali.

A degraded hill in Muhanga District. Sam Ngendahimana.

Under its provisions, developed countries will be the first to start the phase-down process in 2019.

For most developing countries, the first step to reduce the production and consumption of these greenhouse gases begins in 2029, while for the remaining developing parties the first step is set for 2032