As ministers converge in Kigali for talks on phasing down hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), environmentalists are calling for a rapid transition to achieve what is seen as an ambitious goal.
This, they say, should be preceded by adoption of energy efficient and climate-friendly alternatives which can avoid warming of up to 0.5 degrees Celcius warming by the end of the century.
HFCs are the fastest growing greenhousbe gases in many countries and are said to have great potential to cause global warming.
In Kigali, negotiations to amend the Montreal Protocol to phase down the carbons have entered a critical stage as nearly 40 ministers arrive in the country today to attend the high-level discussions.
Among other participants scheduled to arrive later this week for the 28th meeting of Parties to the Montreal Protocol is US Secretary of State John Kerry.
Already, about 1,000 delegates, including experts representing governments and multilateral organisations, have been engrossed in intense consultations and negotiations leading to the possible amendment of the Montreal Protocol.
Regarded as the most successfully international treaty on environment, the Montreal protocol has managed to avoid the equivalent of some 135 billion tonnes of carbon-dioxide emissions, saving the ozone layer from complete collapse by the middle of this century.
A statement issued from the Climate Action Network International says that if global officials reach an “early agreement” in Kigali –to halt the increase of HFCs and to rapidly transition to energy efficient and climate-friendly alternatives—this will avoid global warming and, would “greatly increase our chances” to meet the world’s climate goal, to limit temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celcius.
Wael Hmaidan, the international director of Climate Action Network, said global leaders must seize the Kigali occasion to strike a deal to cut down the dangerous greenhouse gases.
“In the Paris Agreement, national leaders promised to try their hardest to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celcius. However, those promises will ring hollow if we don’t get an early date for the global phase-down of HFCs. These chemicals are thousands of times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas and are increasing in use by 10 per cent to 15 per cent a year,” Hmaidan said.
“We urge leaders to use this occasion to come together to strike an ambitious deal to cut down on these heat-trapping “super pollutants” and reaffirm the commitment they made in Paris to use every opportunity they have to tackle climate change. A success in Kigali can really raise the bar for greater ambition on global climate action in the years ahead.”
Benson Ireri, Christian Aid’s senior policy officer for Africa, said it is imperative that leaders find a common ground to amend the treaty or else, “it is their governments’ credibility that will be on the line if we don’t get a good outcome.”
“Vulnerable countries do not have time to wait, the climate is changing fast and phasing down HFCs is something which we absolutely must do if we’re going to honour the pledges of the Paris Agreement. It would be an embarrassing start if the Agreement came into force next month and countries had failed their first test by delivering a feeble deal on HFCs,” Ireri said.
Different phase-out baselines
Developed and developing countries have been discussing the need to control HFC emissions for a decade, but with different views on baselines to phase-down the dangerous greenhouse gases to varying interest.
The US wants action to be “speedy” enough for global emissions to reach their peak by 2021, then to start falling.
China was seeking to postpone that baseline until 2023. Brazil, Indonesia and Malaysia lean towards 2025. India had lobbied for an even later date, closer to 2030, but The New Times understands it has since come down to 2026 during the Kigali negotiations.
However, African countries and low-lying island states—already concerned by global warming—are pushing for a speedy timeframe.
Reports also suggest that whatever the deadline – and however steep the cuts –, the plan is to require developed countries to act faster while allowing poorer ones more time to adjust.