Honouring its commitment to the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, speciality chemicals and gas company A-Gas South Africa will be phasing out commonly used high global warming potential (GWP) refrigerants in its product range.
A-Gas supplies industrial gases used in refrigeration and air-conditioning systems across several sectors, including the automotive aftersales market. Currently, the standard gases used in car air-conditioning systems are R134A gases – hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) gases that replaced commonly used chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) refrigerants when the now well-known detrimental effects of these gases on the ozone layer had been identified. However, HFCs are man-made chemicals that can be thousands of times more potent than carbon dioxide in contributing to climate change.
Global delegates convened in the Rwandan capital of Kigali from October 10 to 15 for the twenty-eighth Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol, which aims to reduce both the production and consumption of ozone- depleting substances.
The Kigali meeting was aimed at negotiating a timetable to mandate countries to phase down the production and use of HFCs. Following seven years of continual consultations, parties to the Montreal Protocol struck a landmark, legally binding deal on October 16 to reduce the emissions of powerful greenhouse gases. This could prevent up to 0.5 °C of global warming by the end of this century, while continuing to protect the ozone layer.
A-Gas South Africa commercial director Chris Phillips points out that the company was established in 1993 to introduce ‘greener’ alternatives to the then widely used chlorofluorocarbons. “Since then, we have built on this original guiding principle, specialising in the supply of the latest environmentally acceptable refrigerants, in addition to developing world- class refrigerant recovery and reclamation facilities.”
A-Gas, thus, hails the signing of the Kigali Agreement as a “historic international agreement” for the phasing down of harmful gases, which will be a driving factor in the company’s product mix going forward.
The inclusion of the Kigali adjustment provision enables signatories to respond quickly to new scientific information to accelerate the reduction schedule. These reductions are then automatically applicable to signatory countries. Developing countries are afforded more time to comply with the phase-out schedule, in addition to having access to funding from the Multilateral Fund to facilitate compliance.
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) notes that the Kigali Amendment could be the single largest real contribution the world has made so far towards keeping the global temperature rise well below 2 °C above preindustrial levels, a target agreed upon at the 2015 Paris Climate Conference. This amendment is a major step in realising that target, says A-Gas South Africa.
According to the UNEP, the agreement includes specific targets and timetables to replace HFCs with more environment-friendly alternatives; provisions to prohibit or restrict countries that have ratified the protocol or its amendments from trading in controlled substances with States that are yet to ratify it; and an agreement by developed countries to help finance the transition of poor countries to alternative safer products. In particular, African countries opted to phase down the chemicals faster than required, citing the grave threats the region faces owing to climate change.
The final agreement split the world’s major economies into three groups, each with a target phase-down date. The most developed countries, including the US and the European Union, will reduce the production and consumption of HFCs from 2019.
Most of the world, including China, Brazil and all of Africa, will freeze the use of HFCs by 2024. A small group of the world’s hottest countries, such as Bahrain, India, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, have to halt HFC production and use only by 2028.
“As pressure mounts on governments worldwide for less talk and more action to address climate change, the Kigali Amendment is, indeed, a commendable move that adds momentum to a series of new global climate change agreements, including the Paris Agreement, which was officially entered into on November 4,” the UNEP states.
A notable presence at the signing of the Kigali Agreement was top officials from the chemicals industry, including producers and manufacturers of equipment that uses HFCs. This was a clear demonstration that the entire HFC supply chain supports decisive action to halt the production and use of these harmful substances globally.