Montreal Protocol: Nearly 200 countries adopt Kigali amendment to phase out HFCs

After days of intense negotiations, delegates yesterday agreed to an amendment that sets the dates for the phasing out of highly potent gas, hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), used in air conditioning and refrigeration. The final negotiations, which started on Friday morning, were extended throughout the night and the deal was struck on Saturday morning.
Minister Biruta gavels to symbolize the closing the deal as parties agree on the Kigali amendment. / All photos by Gabriel Dusabe
Minister Biruta gavels to symbolize the closing the deal as parties agree on the Kigali amendment. / All photos by Gabriel Dusabe

After days of intense negotiations, delegates yesterday agreed to an amendment that sets the dates for the phasing out of highly potent gas, hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), used in air conditioning and refrigeration. The final negotiations, which started on Friday morning, were extended throughout the night and the deal was struck on Saturday morning.

There were cheers of jubilation, hugs and tears of joy inside the Kigali Convention Center as Parties to the Montreal Protocol adopted the Kigali amendment.

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This is regarded as the first climate change test the world has passed since the signing of Paris agreement earlier this year. “The Kigali amendment is no longer a dream it is a reality,” said Minister for Natural Resources and the President of the 28th Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol (MOP28) Vincent Biruta. After making the announcement, Biruta told the delegates: “Your commitment to a prosperous future and willingness to collaborate is a hallmark of the Montreal Protocol and the best of humanity”.

Environmentalists say if HFC are not curbed, it will become virtually impossible to meet the Paris Agreement goals of keeping global warming below 2°C. HFCs are considered to be 1,000 times more potent than carbon dioxide in trapping heat within the atmosphere accelerating global temperature rise. Their average lifespan in the atmosphere is about 5 - 10 years, therefore, eliminating their use would result in immediate results.

Gina McCarthy, the Administrator of the United States Environment Protection Agency (EPA), said the historic Kigali Agreement is a “great deal” and one of the major breakthroughs the world has ever made to curb HFC emissions. “This day will unquestionably be remembered as one of the most important in our effort to save the one planet we have. It is truly an exciting time for all of us who have worked so hard to achieve this new level of success, and as head of the U.S. delegation, I could not be more delighted with the outcome of the negotiations and our collective resolve.

The prospects for the future of our planet are bright,” McCarthy said. David Doniger, the Program Director of Climate and Clean Air from India’s Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) said it was the biggest step taken after the Paris agreement, and is equal to stopping the entire world’s fossil-fuel CO2 emissions for more than two years. “Bringing HFCs under the Montreal Protocol also sends a clear signal to the global marketplace to start replacing these dangerous chemicals with a new generation of climate-friendly and energy-efficient alternatives,” Agreed HFC phase out baseline years.   

The amendments have two separate phase-down schedules for developing countries (Article 5) and one phase down date for the developed countries (Article 2). The A2 countries have agreed to a baseline of 2011-2013 with cuts in HFCs beginning in 2019. Whereas A5 countries have agreed to two sub groups with two different baselines. A5 Group 2 includes India, Pakistan, Iran and Iraq - with a baseline of 2024-2026 and a freeze date of 2028. The remaining developing countries have favored an early phase out with a baseline of 2020-2022 and a freeze date of 2024. The scheduled phase down of HFCs will help avoid close to 70 billion tons of CO2 emission equivalent which translates into shutting down 750 coal power plants or over half the coal power stations in China.    

Negotiations   China, the biggest consumer of HFCs, agreed to an early phase down during the initial rounds of negotiations while India decided to come down from its earlier position of 2031 to 2024-2026. Thus putting pressure on other developing countries to either align with China for an early phase down date of 2020-2022 or decide for a later phase down date of 2024-2026. 2020-2022 baseline dates were then favored by other parties like, Brazil, African nations, Small Island Nations as well as Latin and South American nations.

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Apart from India, 2024-2026 baselines years, was also favored by Pakistan and the Middle Eastern Countries. Manoj Kumar Singh, India’s Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change said that his country is “really happy” with the Kigali agreement. “We have indeed achieved a balanced agreement in Kigali and that’s what we wanted—which allows us enough time to implement the amendments agreed upon,” Manoj said. Now, the world needs about $6 billion to implement the Kigali amendment.

But there are reports that so far $80 million had been raised from developed countries and multilateral funds. Erik Solheim, the United Nations Environment Chief said in a statement that the Kigali amendment provides for exemptions for developing countries with ambient temperatures to phase down HFCs at a slower pace.

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