Over 170 nations agree to cut global-warming chemical used in refrigerators and air conditioners

A global agreement to cut a heat-trapping chemical used in air conditioning units and refrigerators was announced today, with participation from over 170 nations.

“The deal could have a greater impact on global warming than the Paris pact of 2015,” reports the New York Times.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry delivers his keynote addres to promote U.S. climate and environmental goals, at the Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol on the elimination of hydro fluorocarbons (HFCs) use, held in Rwanda's capital Kigali, October 14, 2016. REUTERS/James Akena

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry delivers his keynote addres to promote U.S. climate and environmental goals, at the Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol on the elimination of hydro fluorocarbons (HFCs) use, held in Rwanda's capital Kigali, October 14, 2016. REUTERS/James Akena

The agreement was finalized at the 28th Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, in Kigali, Rwanda today. The goal: reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Environmental groups set targets for the deal that could have potentially reduced global warming by one half-degree Celsius, by the end of this century. The agreement signed today gets us “90 percent there,” by some accounts.

The Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development says this is the "largest temperature reduction ever achieved by a single agreement."

From the Associated Press:

The talks on hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, have been called the first test of global will since the historic Paris Agreement to cut carbon emissions was reached last year. HFCs are described as the world's fastest-growing climate pollutant and are used in air conditioners and refrigerators.

The agreement announced Saturday morning, after all-night negotiations, caps and reduces the use of HFCs in a gradual process beginning in 2019 with action by developed countries including the United States, the world's second worst polluter. More than 100 developing countries, including China, the world's top carbon emitter, will start taking action in 2024.

A small group of countries including India, Pakistan and some Gulf states pushed for and secured a later start in 2029, saying their economies need more time to grow. That's two years earlier than India, the world's third worst polluter, had first proposed.

(...) HFCs were introduced in the 1980s as a substitute for ozone-depleting gases. But their danger has grown as air conditioner and refrigerator sales have soared in emerging economies like China and India. HFCs are also found in inhalers and insulating foams.

PHOTO, TOP: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (in red neck tie) takes his seat during a bilateral meeting with Chinese Deputy Minister For Environment Protection Zhai Qing to promote U.S. climate and environmental goals, at the Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol on the elimination of hydro fluorocarbons (HFCs) use in Rwanda's capital Kigali October 14, 2016. REUTERS/Cyril Ndegeya