The Marshall Islands have become the first nation to ratify a global deal to curb the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).
Under the Montreal Protocol the production of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) – found in refrigerators, aerosols, air conditioners and foam insulation – were phased out due to their destructive effect on the Earth’s ozone layer.
In the 1990s HFCs were rolled out to replace CFCs, but while they were less damaging to the ozone layer, they can be hundreds to thousands of times more potent than carbon dioxide (CO2).
On 15 October 2016, the Kigali amendment to the Montreal Protocol was reached; 197 countries committed to cut the production and consumption of HFCs by more than 80 per cent over the next 30 years.
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) estimates that the ambitious schedule will avoid more than 80 billion metric tons of CO2 equivalent emissions by 2050 and avoid up to 0.5°C global warming by the end of the century.
Under the amendment, developed countries will reduce HFC consumption beginning in 2019.
Most developing countries will freeze consumption in 2024, with a small number of developing countries with unique circumstances freezing consumption in 2028.
The plan also provides financing to certain countries, to help them transition to climate-friendly alternatives.
Combating climate change has particular significance to the Marshall Islands whose low-lying atolls are highly susceptible to sea-level rise and drought.
The country’s President Hilda Heine said: “My country will not survive without urgent action to cut emissions by every country and every sector of our economies, including HFCs. Our rapid ratification of the Kigali Amendment is yet another demonstration of our commitment to the Paris Agreement. We now need others to quickly do the same in order to help keep global temperature increases within 1.5C. This deal is good for our people, the planet, and the profits of those that follow in our footsteps.”
The Marshall Islands’ Foreign Minister John Silk said he would be depositing the ratification at the United Nations in New York at the soonest possible moment.
Silk paid tribute to the islands that had led the fight against HFCs, saying: “The world owes a great debt to the Federated States of Micronesia in particular for their tireless leadership in securing this amendment, beginning with their first submission in 2009. This amendment is one of the best examples of island leadership that we have seen”.