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Hope for deal to scrap super greenhouse gases

KIGALI (AFP) – 

Hopes were high Friday that world envoys at a meeting in Rwanda will agree a deal to phase out the use of a potent greenhouse gas used in refrigerators and air conditioners.

Officials travelling with US Secretary of State John Kerry said they were optimistic that up to 200 nations would agree to end the use of hydrofluorocarbons or HFCs.

These gases were introduced in the 1990s to replace chemicals that had been found to erode the ozone layer, but turned out to be catastrophic for global warming.

Banning HFCs — also found in aerosols and foam insulation — could slow the global temperature increase by half a degree Celsius by the end of the century.

Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame is hosting the meeting and on Friday was to meet Kerry, one of around 40 ministerial level delegates in his east African country’s capital.

Opening the conference this week, Kagame said that eradicating HFCs “will make our world safer and more prosperous”.

HFCs predecessors, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), were discontinued under the 1987 Montreal Protocol when scientists realised they were destroying the ozone layer.

This blanket of gas in the upper stratosphere protects Earth from the Sun’s dangerous ultraviolet rays.

But it emerged that HFCs, while safe for the now-healing ozone, are thousands of times worse for trapping heat than carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas.

According to the Berkeley National Laboratory, air conditioning is the cause of the largest growth in HFCs — and the world is likely to have another 700 million air conditioners by 2030.

Last year’s Paris climate agreement aims to keep global warming below two degrees Celsius, compared with pre-industrial levels.

But continued use of HFCs could prove a serious stumbling block to attaining the goal.

HFCs — though they are greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide — are not dealt with under the Paris Agreement but under the Montreal Protocol.

Negotiators are weighing various proposals for amending the protocol to freeze HFC production and use at some point between now and 2031.

India, a major HFC producer along with China, backs the later date, while other hot countries where HFC-using air conditioners are in high demand want temporary exemptions.

Last month, a group of developed countries and companies offered $80 million (72 million euros) to help developing countries make the switch away from HFCs.

© 2016 AFP

Article source: http://www.france24.com/en/20161014-hope-deal-scrap-super-greenhouse-gases