Global deal reached to limit hydrofluorocarbons, potent greenhouse gases

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Agreement on HFCs could bring ‘largest temperature reduction ever achieved by single agreement’

Representatives from nearly 200 nations agreed last month on a monumental deal to limit use of hydrofluorocarbons or HFCs, a major emerging greenhouse gas, by 2029. The agreement, announced in October in Kigali, Rwanda, caps and reduces the use of HFCs — a key contributor to greenhouse gases — in a gradual process beginning in 2019 with action by developed countries.

HFCs were used to replace CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons), widely used in refrigerants, propellants, solvents, and aerosols. Emissions of CFCs were found to deplete the ozone layer in the atmosphere that protects our Earth. With HFCs replacing CFCs, the hole in the ozone layer is reducing.

However, HFCs have since been found to be the world’s fastest-growing climate pollutant. They are emitted by appliances such as refrigerators, air conditioners, fire extinguishing systems, aerosols and building insulation. Experts say cutting them is the fastest way to reduce global warming.

The talks on limiting HFCs were the first test of global will since the historic Paris Agreement to cut carbon emissions was reached last year. The agreement on HFCs, unlike the broader Paris one, is legally binding. It caps and reduces the use of HFCs in a gradual process beginning by 2019 with action by developed countries including the United States, the world’s second-worst polluter. More than 100 developing countries, including China, the world’s top carbon emitter, will start taking action by 2024, when HFC consumption levels should peak.

It is estimated that the agreement will cut the global levels of HFCs by 80 to 85 percent by 2047, the World Resources Institute said in a statement.