Hosting Montreal Protocol meet ‘puts Kigali in driving seat’

The Montreal Protocol, signed in 1987, is a global agreement that protects the ozone layer by phasing out the production of substances responsible for ozone depletion and climate change, such as hydroflourocarbons (HFCs).
Minister Biruta speaks during a past interview with The New Times. | RIGHT: Residents of Rubavu plant trees during a past Umuganda exercise. / File
Minister Biruta speaks during a past interview with The New Times. RIGHT: Residents of Rubavu plant trees during a past Umuganda exercise. / File

The Montreal Protocol, signed in 1987, is a global agreement that protects the ozone layer by phasing out the production of substances responsible for ozone depletion and climate change, such as hydroflourocarbons (HFCs).

Thanks to the protocol, there has been a 98 per cent reduction in ozone depleting chemicals globally and the ozone layer is now healing and expected to recover by 2050.

 

However, a lot needs to be done to facilitate the healing of the Ozone layer. To begin with is the controversial amendment of the protocol.

 

The study shows that by passing the amendment to phase down HFCs, the world may be able to prevent two million cases of skin cancer annually by 2030 and avoid up to 0.5°C of global warming by the end of the century.

 

The New Times’ Athan Tashobya spoke with The Minister for Natural Resources, Dr Vincent Biruta, last week and he explained the details regarding the summit which will take place from October 6 to 14 at Kigali Convention Centre.

Below are the excerpts:

Rwanda is hosting the 28th Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol, known as MOP28. This is the first time the meeting has been held in Africa. What is so special about this particular meeting?

The Montreal Protocol is one of the most successful international agreements in history. It has successfully seen the phase out of many of the chemicals that damage the Ozone layer. As a result, the Ozone layer is likely to recover by 2050. 

This was the first time Africa was offering to host this meeting, and since Rwanda has demonstrated the capacity to host big international conferences and being among the first implementers of the Montreal Protocol is among the reasons we were considered to host this significant meeting. 

Rwanda is recognised for its leading role in implementing the Montreal Protocol, exceeding targets and beating deadlines set under the treaty. This includes achieving zero use of chlorofluorocarbon (CFCs) ozone-depleting substances by 2010, a year before the set deadline.

Rwanda’s outstanding contribution to the preservation of the Ozone Layer earned the country the 2012 Ozone Protection Award from the Ozone Secretariat of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).

The meeting in Kigali is so important because it gives us the chance to build on the success of the Montreal Protocol and use this agreement to tackle another global environmental threat - potent greenhouse gases known as hydro-fluorocarbons.

We have seen you recently calling on the world to amend the Montreal Protocol in Kigali. What kind of amendment is Rwanda pushing for?

Rwanda is calling for an ambitious amendment to the Montreal Protocol that would see the quick phase down of these dangerous greenhouse gases known as hydro-fluorocarbons. These chemicals are mostly used in cooling and refrigeration systems - like air conditioning. 

Rwanda is also calling for the phase down to be paired with energy efficient efforts. Amending the protocol will also enable Africa and the rest of the world to consider green industrialisation, which will in the long run protect the Ozone layer; hence mitigating global warming and climate change in general.

How would the amendment to the Montreal Protocol ensure the world achieves the goals of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change?

Parties have presented proposals to amend the Montreal Protocol to phase down HFCs and use the proven flexibility, resources, and experience of this successful and fair international agreement to avoid the equivalent of another 100 to 200 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions in the near-term to 2050.

Successfully amending the Montreal Protocol could avoid up to 0.5 degrees Celsius of warming by the end of the century.

How many countries are willing to amend the protocol so far and what is the possibility of this ambitious amendment on the Montreal Protocol in Kigali.

197 countries are signatories to this Montreal Protocol, and currently over 100 countries have expressed willingness to amend the agreement. We can only hope that the amendment will be made in Kigali.

Won’t the amendments cause sort of conflicts between policy makers and producers of this substance?

First of all we need to understand that, when these substances were formed, people thought they were environment friendly but various studies have revealed that they produce emissions, which have big negative impact on the ozone layer. This is why we are having discussions with countries, which are big consumers and manufacturers of these substances to reach a consensus.

There are several aspects including; commercial aspects, technology transfer, issues of intellectual property rights. Those are some of the aspects that are part of the negotiations as we hope to be flexible to allow the amendment of the protocol. It is good that amendment is made as soon as possible.

What role does energy efficiency play in addressing climate change and how could the Montreal Protocol be used to improve efficiency around the world?

Energy efficiency of appliances is one of the biggest mitigation and development opportunities that the world can implement immediately. Energy efficiency gains in the air conditioning sector alone could reduce global electricity demand by over 11% by 2030 and improved efficiency of room air conditioners could prevent up to 100 billion tons of CO2 emissions by 2050.

Improving energy efficiency as part of the implementation of the HFCs phase down is crucial, not only to protect the climate, but also to promote green development in Africa. If we can improve the average efficiency of air conditioners sold in 2030 by 30 percent, we could avoid the equivalent of as many as 1,500 medium size peak power plants (500-megawatt) by 2030, and up to 2,500 by 2050.

Successful energy efficiency efforts could lead to avoiding an additional 0.5 degrees Celsius by the end of the century.

What are the obstacles to amending the Montreal Protocol? And what is being done to overcome them?

The main challenge we face is ensuring that all Parties have the technological tools to implement the phase down of HFCs. 

A Fast-Start Fund has been established to encourage Parties to pass the amendment and provide countries with the support they need to make the transition away from HFCs.

How ready is Rwanda to implement the much sought after amendment on the Montreal Protocol?

Rwanda is already considered a leader in the implementation of the Montreal Protocol. Rwanda’s outstanding contribution to the preservation of the Ozone Layer earned the country the 2012 Ozone Protection Award from the Ozone Secretariat of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

Rwanda is now implementing the Hydrofluorocarbons Management Plan. A 30 percent phase down of HCFCs was achieved by 2015 and a total phase out is expected by 2020.

We stand ready to implement the amendment to the Montreal Protocol once it passes.

How significant is it for Rwanda to host this meeting?

Rwanda is committed to sustainable development and addressing climate change. To do this, we need to work together with all nations and with all sectors of society.

We are pleased that our efforts to protect our natural heritage have been recognised and look forward to sharing what we have learned –both the successes and the challenges –with other countries party to the Montreal Protocol.

Who are some of the high profile global leaders expected to attend the meeting?

We are expecting a wide range of international leaders including foreign ministers and environment ministers from around the world. There is no doubt that this will be a very high profile meeting.

How serious is the issue of greenhouse gases in Rwanda?

Rwanda’s contribution to climate change remains relatively small - and we want to keep it that way. As we develop our economy, we want to grow in a way that is green and sustainable.

Our goal is to be a developed, climate resilience and low carbon economy by 2050. Rwanda’s Green Fund, FONERWA, is playing a key role in this effort by investing millions of dollars in climate resilience initiatives across the country.

Rwanda has experienced a temperature increase of 1.4°C since 1970, higher than the global average, and can expect an increase in temperature of up to 2.5°C by the 2050s, “if nothing is done”. What is being done to change these rather troublesome trends and how is Rwanda preparing for a warmer world? 

In 2011, Rwanda introduced a Green Growth and Climate Resilience Strategy with 14 programmes of action. This strategy is ensuring that the environment is part of every policy, strategy and decision the government makes.

We are also working with the private sector, civil society and faith-based organisations to ensure everyone is playing their part.

editorial@newtimes.co.rw

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