Speciality chemicals and gas company A-Gas South Africa (SA) has hailed the signing of the Kigali Amendment on October 15, 2016, as an “historic international agreement” for the phasedown of commonly used, high global warming potential (GWP) refrigerants.
Delegates convened in the Rwandan capital of Kigali from October 10 to 15, 2016, for the twenty-eighth Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. The protocol aims to reduce both the production and consumption of ozone-depleting substances (ODS). It was agreed upon on September 16, 1987, and entered into force on January 1, 1989.
The Montreal Protocol’s ‘adjustment provision’ enables signatories to respond quickly to new scientific information to accelerate the reduction schedule. These reductions are then automatically applicable to signatory countries. Developing countries are afforded more time to comply with the phase-out schedule, in addition to having access to funding from the Multilateral Fund to facilitate compliance.
The Kigali meeting was aimed at negotiating a timetable to mandate countries to phase down the production and use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). HFCs are man-made chemicals used mainly in air-conditioning, refrigeration and foam insulation.
These greenhouse gases (GHGs) can be thousands of times more potent than carbon dioxide in contributing to climate change, says A-Gas SA commercial director Chris Phillips.
Following seven years of continuous consultations, parties to the Montreal Protocol struck a legally-binding deal to reduce the emissions of these powerful GHGs. This could prevent up to 0.5 °C of global warming by the end of this century, while continuing to protect the ozone layer.
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) notes that the Kigali Amendment could be the single largest real contribution the world has made so far towards keeping the global temperature rise “well below” 2 °C above preindustrial levels, a target agreed upon at the 2015 Paris Climate Conference last year. This amendment is a major step in realising that target.
According to the UNEP, the agreement includes specific targets and timetables to replace HFCs with more environment-friendly alternatives; provisions to prohibit or restrict countries that have ratified the protocol or its amendments from trading in controlled substances with States that are yet to ratify it; and an agreement by developed countries to help finance the transition of poor countries to alternative safer products.
In particular, African countries opted to phase down the chemicals faster than required, citing the grave threats the region faces, owing to climate change.
The final agreement split the world’s major economies into three groups, each with a target phase-down date. The most developed countries – including the US and the European Union – will reduce the production and consumption of HFCs from 2019.
Most of the world – including China, Brazil, and all of Africa – will freeze the use of HFCs by 2024. A small group of the world’s hottest countries – such as Bahrain, India, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE – only have to halt HFC production and use by 2028.
“As pressure mounts on governments globally for less talk and more action to address climate change, the Kigali Amendment is, indeed, a commendable move that adds momentum to a series of new global climate change agreements, including the Paris Agreement, which officially entered force on November 4, 2016,” the UNEP states on its website.
Notably, present at the signing of the Kigali Amendment were top officials from the chemicals industry, including producers and manufacturers of equipment that use HFCs. This was a clear demonstration that the entire HFC supply chain supports decisive action to halt the production and use of these harmful substances globally.
Phillips points out that the company was established in 1993 to introduce ‘greener’ alternatives to chlorofluorocarbons (CFC), which were then widely used.
“Since then, we have built on this original guiding principle, specialising in the supply of the latest environmentally acceptable refrigerants, in addition to developing world-class refrigerant recovery and reclamation facilities.”
He further highlights that, in all A-Gas regions, ODS are regulated under the Montreal Protocol, perceived as the most successful international treaty in history, and the inclusion of HFCs is an important addition.
“As part of the company’s commitment to both the Montreal Protocol and the Kigali Amendment, A-Gas is championing the blanket ban on disposable refrigerant cylinders in Africa, owing to a lack of regulation and quality control,” Phillips concludes.