What Cools the Planet Warms the Heart

Back in September, we blogged that the world’s two biggest global carbon dioxide producers had ratified the United Nations’ landmark climate accord, the Paris Agreement, agreeing to take measures to prevent global average temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees Centigrade above pre-industrial levels. Then in October, we told you that enough nations have now ratified the Agreement so that it will enter into force on Friday, November 4, 2016. While we’ve spent October discussing what each of us can do on a local scale to fight climate change, the 28th Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol brought world leaders together in Kigali, Rwanda to take on the bigger picture. Now we’re happy to report that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and other world leaders have reached a landmark pact in Kigali that may have an even more dramatic impact than the Paris Agreement, possibly preventing global temperatures from rising up to 0.5 degrees Celsius by the end of the 21st century. The Kigali deal, signed October 15th, is an amendment to the 1987 Montreal Protocol, credited by the U.N. for a 98 percent decrease in the production and use of ozone-damaging hydrofluorocarbons (HFC) — an extremely powerful greenhouse gas used in refrigerators and air conditioners. HFC can trap thousands of times more heat in the Earth’s atmosphere than carbon dioxide (CO2) does. While the Paris accord is voluntary, the Kigali agreement has the legal force of a treaty and offers specific timetables for countries to decrease HFC consumption. The United States and the European Union will lead the way, starting phase-downs by 2019, while developing countries including India and Pakistan are scheduled to follow between 2024 and 2028. China, the world’s largest producer of HFCs will start to cut their production in 2029. Secretary Kerry was quoted in the New York Times saying the pact is “likely the single most important step we could take at this moment to limit the warming of our planet and limit the warming for generations to come.”

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