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NGOs call for a specific date to end use of short-lived climate pollutants

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The pollutants include manmade chemicals used in fridges and air conditioners, and have an impact on depletion of the Ozone Layer.

Christian Aid, among other nongovernmental organisations have called on delegates at the ongoing 28th Meeting of Parties (MOP-28) to the Montreal Protocol on substances that deplete the ozone layer to ambitiously set up a date when the world should stop using hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).

HFCs are manmade chemical gases used mainly in refrigerators, air conditioners across the world, created to replace CFCs in 1990. However, science has found out that these gases are thousands times more lethal to the climate than Carbon Dioxide (CO₂) as a greenhouse gas and their use is increasing at 10-15% a year.

Greenhouse gases are important compounds that are able to trap heat in the atmosphere, hence, giving the earth warmth that sustains life. But overproduction of these gases has led to over warming of the earth surface, leading to serious changes in climatic conditions, a condition that is already having devastating impacts on livelihoods.

Gaby Drinkwater, a Senior Policy Officer for Christian Aid told delegates at the talks in Kigali, Rwanda that it is in everyone’s interests to phase out HFCs as soon as possible.

“HFCs were created to replace HCFCs (hydrochlorofluorocarbons), which in turn replaced CFCs, after it was discovered that the gases were putting a hole in the ozone layer.  “But we didn’t realise that in HFCs we had created another thing that is even more devastating than Carbon dioxide,” said Drinkwater.

However, said Drinkwater,the good news is “we’ve already created their benign replacements, which are also more energy efficient. We now need to start using them, in conjunction with controlling the destruction of existing HFCs in a safe way,” she said.

With the growing population and the changing climatic conditions, people in developing countries seek more air conditioners and refrigerators, which has led to heavy expansion of HFCs, and could deal a significant blow to the ambition of the Paris Agreement.

The ongoing negotiations in Kigali are focusing on agreeing an ambitious and equitable HFC amendment proposal, including the date when the HFCs must be phased-out. Most of the developed countries are pushing for a date closer to 2031 while a majority of the developing countries want a much more ambitious timeline in the early 2020s.

Good news is that richer countries have already provided funds to help developing countries make the transition and leap-frog to the safer alternatives, with philanthropists adding another $53m to the pot to aid this process just a month ago.

Ms Drinkwater said countries had nothing to fear from a rapid phasedown: “By leapfrogging polluting HFCs, developing countries can cut their energy use, reduce their climate impact, ensure they deliver on their Paris Agreement pledges and benefit from financial support towards equipment upgrades.”

“The combination of removing HFCs and the energy efficiency savings of new technology could see global temperatures reduced by a full degree centigrade by the end of the century,” she said.

Tina Birmpili, the Executive Secretary, Ozone Secretariat, stated that projected increases in demand for cooling mean that, by mid-century, more energy will be used on cooling than on heating. She underlined how this trend makes reaching an agreement on an HFC phasedown, combined with efforts to improve energy efficiency, as crucial to mitigating climate change.

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