Deal to cut the worldwide use of climate-damaging refrigerants
The international community has agreed to gradually and drastically curb the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which have a particularly damaging impact on the climate. HFCs are used in refrigerators and air conditioning systems as substitutes for the ozone-depleting CFCs banned by the Montreal Protocol of 1987. The new rules, which contracting parties agreed today in Kigali, Rwanda, substantially broaden the scope of the Montreal Protocol, transforming a treaty designed to protect the ozone layer into an effective instrument for combating climate change.
German Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks: "The Kigali decisions are a milestone in fighting climate change at global level. The international community has once again demonstrated its ability to take action. HFCs have become a serious problem for the planet’s climate. If the world now switches to climate-friendly alternatives, we can prevent up to 0.5 degrees Celsius of global warming. Germany will actively support developing countries in the transition."
The substances newly regulated under the Montreal Protocol are increasingly used as substitutes for the ozone-depleting substances (ODSs) already regulated under the Protocol. HFCs are greenhouse gases with a high global warming potential – comparable to that of ODSs. Given the rapidly increasing international demand for cooling and air-conditioning, the unrestricted use of HFCs could significantly contribute to global warming over the next decades.
By 2050, the decision to phase down the use of HFCs will prevent greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 65 billion tons of CO2. As a comparison, Germany’s greenhouse gas emissions currently amount to 900 million tons per year. Climate-neutral alternatives are already available and the new rules will give them a necessary boost at global level.
The Kigali agreement establishes different timetables for developed and developing countries’ obligations to phase down the production and use of 17 HFCs. Developed countries are to achieve a reduction of 85 per cent by 2036, starting with an initial reduction phase as early as 2019. Differentiated reduction plans apply to developing and emerging countries with reduction targets of 80 and 85 per cent in the period between 2024 and 2047. Developed countries will financially support developing countries in fulfilling their obligations.
Together with the other EU member states, the United States and a large number of ambitious countries, Germany fought for drastic restrictions on the use of HFCs. This objective was achieved in Kigali. The process of phasing down HFCs has already started in Germany and Europe. The rules adopted in Europe therefore already comply with the new Montreal Protocol.
The ban on CFCs under the Montreal Protocol with its now 197 signatories has helped prevent 2 million cases of skin cancer annually and other negative impacts on humans and the environment. UN scientists expect the ozone layer to be restored by mid-century. By broadening its scope to cover additional substances, the Montreal Protocol will become even more effective as a global instrument to combat climate change.