2018/10/08: This little-noticed treaty has nothing to do with the Paris accord, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change negotiations that have dragged on since 1992, or energy sector emissions, which have resumed their rise.
The Kigali Amendment, which was agreed on October 15, 2016, and comes into force on January 1, will drastically reduce hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). These heat-trapping gases are the byproduct of industrial processes such as refrigeration and can be eliminated from those processes by re-engineering. The amendment comes under the Montreal Protocol, the world’s most successful international environmental treaty, which aims to stop the depletion of the ozone layer.
HFCs are prime examples of short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs), a range of chemicals that are spewed into the atmosphere by human activities and contribute to global warming. While attempts to reduce climate change have rightly focused on the main greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, mostly produced from our use of fossil fuels, these other substances have been largely ignored.
Experts estimate that cutting down on SLCPs could reduce global warming by as much as 0.5 degrees C. That would not be enough to avoid the worst effects of climate change if we continue to burn fossil fuels, but it could buy humanity some much-needed time while carbon emissions are brought under better control.
“The only way to slow near-term feedbacks [which could drive climate change past tipping points] in the 15- to 20-year window before we lose control to runaway warming is to cut the SLCPs, which can provide considerably more avoided warming at mid-century than cuts to carbon dioxide can provide,” said Durwood Zaelke, founder of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development and a reviewer of the IPCC report on the effects of 1.5 C warming. “In fact, [they could provide] two to six times more [than carbon cuts].”