Powerful deal to phase out greenhouse gases reached by over 150 countries

United States Secretary Of State John Kerry

On Saturday morning at an international meeting in Rwanda, 197 countries agreed to phase out harmful hydrofluorocarbons (otherwise known as HFCs), which are widely used in air conditioners and refrigerators.

Far more potent than carbon dioxide by 100,000 times, David Doniger, a director at the Natural Resources Defence Council said that the agreement is equal to “stopping the entire world’s fossil fuel CO2 emissions for more than two years.”

The process, which is set to begin in 2019 has been agreed with action by developed countries including both the United States and China.

John Kerry, US Secretary of State, who took part in the meetings, said that the deal was a “monumental step forward.”

The UN hailed the breakthrough as the largest since the Paris Agreement in December 2015.

In a statement from the White House, President Obama said that the agreement was “an ambitious and far-reaching solution” to the looming crisis of climate change.

The deal took seven years to negotiate and also lays down the groundwork for developing countries to phase out HFC levels in 2024.

These countries shall freeze consumption in 2024 and bring down the use of HFCs to 80 per cent below 2020-22 levels by 2045.

Other countries, including India, negotiated a start for the withdrawal of the gases by 2028 and are required to reduce usage by 85 per cent below 2024-26 levels by 2047.

Although HFCs are less abundant than carbon dioxide, the gases emit as much pollutants as 300 coal-fired power plants every year.

It is expected that HFCs shall be swapped for alternatives such as ammonia, water, or gases known as hydrofluoroolefins — chemical compounds composed of hydrogen, fluorine and carbon.

Environmental secretary Andrea Leadsom said:

The UK has already pledged to phase down use of HFCs by 80 per cent by 2030 and today’s historic agreement means the rest of the world will be following our lead, after UK negotiators worked through the night at UN talks in Rwanda to achieve the deal.

“The deal will avoid 0.5°C of global warming by the end of this century. That makes it possibly the biggest single step the world will take to meet the goal of the Paris climate deal to limit temperature increases to well below 2°C.”

A scientific panel advising the signatories said that phasing out HFCs shall cost between $4 billion and $6 billion.

Andy has worked as a freelance journalist for a number of years and has been published in some of the UK’s top newspapers. He is now the editor Commercial Waste Magazine and contributes to a large selection of headlines and blog articles on the site.

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