Rwandan President favours early phase-out of HFC coolants

Kigali (Rwanda), Oct 13 (IANS) Rwandan President Paul Kagame on Thursday favoured the earliest possible phase-out of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) — super greenhouse gases used in refrigeration and air-conditioning — to make the world safer.

In his presidential address at the 28th meeting of the Parties to the 1989 Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer here, he said: “We should not allow ourselves to be satisfied with making a little bit of good progress when it’s within our power to actually solve the problem.”

“We have gone beyond challenging the science of climate change to testing and perfecting the technology for mitigating it, without compromising economic and social progress,” he said.

Advocating the need for achieving an ambitious HFCs phase-out agreement, Kagame, who is widely credited with bringing stability and economic growth to Rwanda, said: “The faster the countries act, the lower the financial costs would be and the lighter the environmental burden on ‘our children’.”

“The responsibility to act lies not only with governments, but also with scientists and the private sector. Our job is to provide them the proper incentives and support to do their work,” he noted.

In his less than 10-minute address, he said: “That begins with a clear signal that change is coming and it’s coming soon. In due course, new innovations and products will allow us to phase out HFCs even faster and at lower cost.”

“At the same time, we must remember that there are still vast gains to be made in the efficiency of appliances.

“Doing so will significantly reduce harmful emissions, up to perhaps another half-a-degree Celsius, while making our economies more competitive and sustainable,” he said.

Indirectly hinting that there is an economic case for the developing countries to advance the time frame for the phase-down of HFCs, he said: “Let’s make sure that adequate funding is in place to drive the efficiency agenda.”

“Taking decisive action here, in Kigali, will inject new energy into the Paris Agreement, increasing confidence that the international community is able to effectively address not only climate change but many other urgent matters as well.

“The key is to work in a spirit of multilateral cooperation and mutual respect. We need more signs of this in our world today,” he underlined.

“It never hurts to think big. Let’s come together, find good solutions to any remaining issues, and make history; again, making history together,” Kagame said.

In a landmark decision in November last, the 197 Parties of the Montreal Protocol agreed to the “Dubai Pathway on HFCs”, which commits the Parties to “work within the Montreal Protocol to an HFC amendment in 2016 by first resolving challenges by generating solutions in the contact group on the feasibility and ways of managing HFCs”.

For smooth transition to developing new technologies indigenously, there is a huge financial burden on the developing countries, including India — both for the industry and the consumers, an official told IANS.

At the Meeting of the Parties, nearly 200 countries, including India, are trying to negotiate on separate deadlines for the developed and developing nations to phase out HFCs.

US Secretary of State John Kerry is travelling to Kigali on Friday for the meeting on Montreal Protocol.

India’s Union Environment Minister Anil Madhav Dave, along with ministers from 40 countries, mainly developing nations, attended the Meeting of the Parties on the first day on Thursday.

Experts say though HFCs — the refrigeration and air-conditioning coolants — do not harm the ozone layer, they have a high global warming potential.

Their elimination will ultimately help to avoid an up to 0.5 degree Celsius rise in global temperature by the end of the century and will significantly contribute towards the global goal of staying well below two degrees.

(Vishal Gulati is in Kigali in Rwanda to cover the 28th Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol. He can be contacted at vishal.g@ians.in)

–IANS

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