By Liz Whiteley, NASRC Executive Director
October 2016 sees a lot of good things starting to happen on the climate front
Despite the barrage of depressing and crazy and sometimes unbelievable news recently, October has been a huge month for making progress toward tackling climate change. Countries and businesses around the world have made commitments that, when acted upon, will help decrease greenhouse gas emissions and hopefully limit the increase in global average temperatures to less than 2 degrees Celsius. The scientific consensus being that an increase of more than 2 °C, (as compared to pre-industrial global averages), could lead to catastrophic and irreversible changes. Keep reading for a rundown of recent decisions and commitments, and what it means for the future.
Quick note: when we talk about climate change and greenhouse gases emissions, we speak in terms of relative “potency” or impact on global warming. Different greenhouse gases have different global warming potentials (GWPs). Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the most common greenhouse gas and it has a GWP of one; it’s the sheer volume of CO2 emissions that makes it the major contributor to man-made climate change. Hydroflurocarbons, or HFCs, have GWPs in the thousands. HFCs are used as refrigerants in all types of equipment, from air conditioners to supermarket systems to huge industrial plants and everything in between.
The Paris Climate Change Agreement enters into force (October 5, 2016)
Last December in Paris, France, parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) agreed to take actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, with the explicit goal of limiting the increase in global average temperatures to less than 2 °C. In order for that agreement to take effect, at least 55 countries representing 55 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions needed to ratify the agreement. That happened on October 5th, just 10 months after the agreement was drafted in Paris.
The Agreement officially takes effect on November 4th, 30 days after the enacting threshold was met. All ratifying parties, including the U.S., which signed the agreement in September, will be bound by their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs)—national climate action plans that can be strengthened over time, but not weakened.
For more details on what happens next, check out the press release from the UNFCCC.
Consumer Goods Forum adopts new Refrigeration Resolution (October 6, 2016)
The day after the Paris Climate Change Agreement entered into force, the Consumer Goods Forum adopted its second Refrigeration Resolution, building upon a previous commitment from 2010.
CGF’s new refrigeration resolution recognizes ”that a rapid phase down of high GWP HFCs and more sustainable management of refrigeration and systems is necessary to meet the ambitious goal of holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to further pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C, as set out in the Paris Climate Agreement.“
The new resolution has four parts: to adopt natural refrigerants and other ultra low-GWP solutions for new equipment in markets where viable; to work to overcome barriers to adoption in markets where there currently are not viable low-GWP options; to consider energy efficiency and the importance of proper refrigerant management in order to minimize the total equivalent warming impact (TEWI) of all new and existing refrigeration equipment; and for member companies to develop individual targets and action plans to achieve the first three goals.
CGF members include supermarkets like Hannaford Bros. and Food Lion, along with retailer and manufacturer powerhouses like Walmart, Campbell Soup, Amazon, SABMiller and 3M, just to name a few…While the resolution is not legally binding, it has these companies at least talking about the climate impact of refrigeration, if not making serious changes at the corporate level, and that’s a very good thing.
Parties to the Montreal Protocol adopt the Kigali Amendments to phasedown HFCs (October 15, 2016)
After seven years of tireless work and lengthy negotiations, we now have a global commitment to phasedown the production of HFCs. This is huge. The Kigali Amendment updates the Montreal Protocol—a global treaty with universal ratification—thereby utilizing the successful mechanisms already in place for phasing out ozone depleting substances (like CFCs and HCFCs) to now phasedown HFCs.
Developed countries will start to reduce HFC consumption (which is defined as production + net import) in 2019, with developing countries following in 2024 or for some, 2028. By the late 2040’s all countries will be producing and importing HFCs at no more than 15 to 20 percent of their baseline levels. Such a commitment is going to trigger a huge shift over the next several decades away from HFCs and toward more climate-friendly alternatives.
By phasing down the production and import of HFCs, we ultimately limit the use and emissions of HFCs. Consequently, the Kigali Amendment is expected to prevent up to 0.5 °C of warming, and may just be the ticket to keeping global average temperatures in check enough to stave off the worst possible effects of climate change.
For a brief press release, and links to additional information, visit UNEP’s News Center.
So there you have it. If you are an optimist, there a lot to celebrate. If you are a pessimist (or maybe just a realist), governments and business have said a lot of good things will happen, and now it’s time for them to step up and make that change happen.