In our last article, we highlighted the news that world leaders were to meet and discuss plans about the potential phase out of super potent greenhouse gasses used in air conditioners and refrigerators.
The latest updates are that the consortium HAVE announced an agreement to curb the use of the chemicals (called hydrofluorocarbons) in air conditioning units.
At a time when the world is poised to add 700 million air conditioners by 2030, the agreement could prevent nearly 0.5°C in temperature rise over this century.
According to American President Barack Obama, the deal “shows that we can take action to protect our planet in a way that helps all countries improve the lives and livelihoods of their citizens,” he said in a statement hailing the agreement.
The deal is arguably the most substantial advance in international climate policy since the 2015 Paris accord, in which 195 nations pledged to hold global temperature increases well below 2°C. The HFC negotiations received considerable attention from the Obama administration, which has worked to seal several climate-related agreements before a new president takes office.
One of those who has worked tirelessly regarding this issue is U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who urged conference attendees to back a strong agreement, saying it “is likely the single most important step that we could take at this moment to limit the warming of our planet.”
The deal marks the latest evolution of a treaty hailed as a model of international collaboration to address a global environmental problem. Known as the Montreal Protocol, the 1987 agreement was created to stop the destruction of the ozone layer by chemicals used in everything from hair spray to refrigerators.
Since then, emissions of chemicals like these have plunged as they have been replaced by less-damaging alternatives. Thus, scientists have recently announced that they have detected evidence or recovery on the part of the ozone layer over the Antarctic.
But the very chemicals used to help save the ozone layer come with a heavy price when it came to their warming potential. With the developing world aspiring to amenities such as air conditioning, scientists project that, if left unchecked, HFCs and similar chemicals would account for as much as 11% of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, compared with approximately 2% today.
This new deal caps around 7 years of negotiations and failed attempts to find common ground.
Many of the difficulties revolved around how quickly the cuts would have to come for developing countries such as India, where air conditioners are only now becoming financially affordable for many homes and stores.
Here’s how the agreement will work:
- The final agreement creates a three-tiered system for different countries. Including India and Pakistan.
- The above countries would freeze consumption of HFCs in 2028 and use consumption levels between 2024 and 2026 as the baseline to set targets for future reductions.
- China and other developing countries would halt growth in 2024, and use levels between 2020 and 2022 for their baseline.
- The developed world phase down the use of HFCs starting in 2019. The overall goal is a global 80% to 85% reduction in HFC use by 2047.
- Under the deal, HFC emissions are expected to equal approximately 1.2 gigatons of CO2 in 2050
- It is hoped that by sticking to these rules, the hole in the ozone layer will get significantly smaller. (especially the most affected area above Antarctica)
It is important to remember though, that a switch to different refrigerants won’t be a cure-all for the climate impact of a world increasingly reaching for air conditioners.
World leaders are expected to meet again about the phase out of air conditioning units and to discuss more eco-friendly options, but for the meantime it seems that some agreement is better than a complete disagreement.