What is the Kigali Amendment?

The Kigali Amendment is an international agreement to phase down the production and use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) to address climate change. HFCs are potent greenhouse gases that are widely used today, primarily as a chemical refrigerant in air conditioning and refrigeration and in foam insulation.

HFCs were identified as one of the six main greenhouse gases, alongside carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and two others, in the 1990s, when they first started being used as a replacement for CFCs and HCFCs, chemicals that were also potent greenhouse gases and destroyed atmospheric ozone. An international agreement known as the Montreal Protocol began phasing down CFCs and HCFCs in the 1990s after scientists discovered that they had created a so-called “ozone hole” over Antarctica.

The switch to HFCs solved the problem of atmospheric ozone depletion, but it didn’t address the climate concerns associated with synthetic chemical refrigerants. HFCs are hundreds to thousands of times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, the primary driver of climate change. In 2013, scientists concluded that if HFC use continued unabated, the chemical would by itself contribute an additional half a degree of warming by 2100.

At a Montreal Protocol meeting in Kigali, Rwanda, in 2016, government officials from around the world passed a binding resolution known as the Kigali Amendment that required the phasing down of HFCs.

As of July 2021, more than 120 countries including China, the leading producer of HFCs today, have ratified the amendment. While the United States has not formally ratified the agreement, it passed bipartisan legislation that requires the same 85 percent reduction in HFC production and importation by 2036, as required under the amendment.   

“It will essentially eliminate warming from one of the six main greenhouse gasses,” Durwood Zaelke, president of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable, said of the Amendment. 

Phil McKenna

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