Rwanda has set January 2017 as its baseline year to phase out highly potent gases, hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which are the most common greenhouse gases used in air conditioning and refrigeration devices.
Under the historic Kigali amendment of the Montreal Protocol, which was reached on Saturday, 197 countries agreed to an ambitious amendment that will help protect earth’s climate by significantly reducing the consumption and production of HFCs.
Different blocs agreed on varying baseline years upon which they would phase out HFCs.
The amendments have two separate phase-down schedules for developing countries (which fall within Article 5 of the Montreal Protocol) and one phase-down date for the developed countries (which are described in Article 2).
The Article 2 (developed) countries agreed a freeze date in HFCs beginning in 2019.
Whereas Article 5 countries agreed to two sub groups with two different baselines. A5 group includes India, Pakistan, Iran and Iraq - with a baseline of 2024-2026 and a freeze date of 2028.
The remaining developing countries, including African nations, favored an early phase out with a baseline of 2020-2022 and a freeze date of 2024.
“Under the Kigali Amendment, Rwanda will set its baseline as early as January 2017 and aims to beat the targets set,” a statement from the Ministry of Natural Resources reads in part.
This will not be the first time Rwanda is going way ahead of time in implementing the resolutions adopted at the previous Montreal Protocol meetings.
In 2010, Rwanda was the only country able to achieve zero use of chlorofluorocarbon (CFCs) ozone-depleting substances, one year before the set deadline set by the original Montreal Protocol in 1989.
“This is a demonstration of Rwanda’s commitment to sustainable development and environmental protection,” the statement further reads.
In a recent interview with Minister for Natural Resources, Dr Vincent Biruta, he said phasing down HFCs will allow Rwanda to rapidly transition to energy efficient and climate-friendly alternatives, which will avoid global warming and, would limit temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celcius.
During last week’s 28th Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol (MOP2), there were rigorous negotiations between the biggest consumers/producer countries of unpopular HFCs against the least consumers of HFCs as well as some developed countries—which have also come up with the latest technology, which is less harmful to the climate.
China, the biggest consumer of HFCs, agreed to an early phase down during the initial rounds of negotiations while India (another big consumer and producer) decided to come down from its earlier position of 2031 to 2024-2026.
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.
The historic Kigali Amendment will help avoid up to 0.5 degree Celcius of global warming by the end of the century, by phasing out the use of HFCs - chemicals mostly used in fridges and air conditioners, allowing in the new gasses relatively safe for the climate such as carbon dioxide.
Studies show that, in a single year, HFCs emit as much carbon dioxide equivalent as nearly 300 coal-fired power plants, making the substances exceptionally potent drivers of climate change.
To put it into context, HFCs are thousands of times more potent than, carbon dioxide.