On Saturday October 15th, more than 170 countries agreed to limit emissions of key climate change-causing pollutants found in air conditioners, a significant step in the international effort to keep global warming from reaching catastrophic levels.
The deal reached in Kigali, Rwanda, comes after years of wrangling over HFCs—short for hydrofluorocarbons—and could on its own prevent a 0.5°C (0.9°F) rise in temperature by 2100. Scientists say such an achievement could be crucial to the goal laid out in last year’s Paris Agreement of holding global temperature rise below 2°C (3.6°F) by 2100.
Total global HFC emissions—most commonly from air conditioners and refrigerators—are far less significant contributors to climate change than the aggregate emission of other greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane. But HFCs are thousands of times more potent than carbon dioxide on a pound-per-pound basis, making them an obvious target for international efforts to combat climate change.
“Adopting an ambitious amendment to phase down the use and production of hydrofluorocarbons—or HFCs—is likely the single most important step that we could take at this moment to limit the warming of our planet,” Secretary of State John Kerry said in Kigali, in remarks before the passage of the agreement.
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