UK begins ratification of Kigali deal on HFCs

The UK has committed to nearly wipe out hydrofluorocarbons (HFCS) as part of a landmark UN agreement which aims to prevent 0.5C of global warming by the end of the century.

The Kigali amendment to the UN Montreal Protocol, agreed by almost 200 nations in October 2016, forces countries to reduce HFC refrigerant gases from appliances such as air conditioning units and refrigerators. As part of the UK’s commitment to the deal, the country will reduce HFCs by 85% between 2019 and 2036.

Announcing the UK’s start of the ratification process yesterday (5 September), Defra Secretary Michael Gove said: “Adopting this ambitious target will mark the UK as a world leader in tackling climate change.

“Not only will this deal reduce global carbon emissions by the equivalent of around 70 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide by 2050 – the same as 600 coal fired power stations would produce during that time – it will also help to protect our health, our agriculture and the wider environment.”

Ozone protection

The Montreal Protocol, originally agreed back in 1987, is regarded as one of the world’s most successful treaties, having successfully phased out 98% of ozone depleting substances such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs). The ozone layer has since shown encouraging signs of recovery.

HFCs were subsequently introduced to limit damage to the ozone layer and replace phased out refrigerants. However, they have much greater levels of global warming potential. Under the Kigali amendment, developed countries are required to cap and phase down HFCs starting in 2019.

This international agreement is legally binding and strengthens existing commitments. The UK, for example, had already committed to phase down HFC use by 79% by 2030, starting in 2015. Timetables for developing countries are different. The UK Government claims that carbon savings represent a net benefit of £1.17bn to the British economy.  

Many global food and drink companies – Coca Cola, Pepsico and Unilever among them – have already started to replace fluorinated gases with climate-friendly and natural refrigerants, which are more energy-efficient and can save money.

Last month, German discount supermarket group Aldi invested £20m in natural refrigerants which will be installed across all of its UK stores. And earlier in 2016, fellow supermarket group Sainsbury’s became the first company in the world to incorporate “closed-loop” natural refrigerant trailer units for its delivery vehicles.

George Ogleby

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