Last week, in Kigali, Rwanda, governments across the world agreed on a landmark deal to phase down HFCs (hydrofluorocarbons). HFCs are greenhouse gases that are up to a thousand times more powerful than CO2. They are used as refrigerants in things like air conditioners, and contribute the rapid warming of our planet.
The phase down is a move in the right direction, but progress is simply not happening fast enough. We need to stay below 1.5ºC of global warming to alleviate its worst effects and we only have a few more years to take action before damage to the planet becomes irreversible.
We need transformational change, not just incremental change. If nations are ambitious and have the courage to take bold action to get rid of HFCs, we could actually decrease temperatures by 0.5ºC by the end of the century.
Together, we need to demand a phase out of HFCs by 2020. Sustainable alternatives, like GreenFreeze, are already available in most cooling appliances. Natural refrigerants are the solution, not their highly polluting alternatives which the chemical lobby is pushing for: HFOs.
Removal of CFCs at electronic waste recycling facility in Slovakia
The pace of negotiations to phase down these gases has always been dictated by the industries that produce them. Since the Montreal Protocol was signed in 1987, the chemical industry has profited from marketing new generations of fluorocarbon chemicals; transitioning from one generation of fluorocarbons to the next. But they have failed to solve the global crises which their products. The costs of cleaning up has been left to the public. And even today, the industry is pushing for new fluorocarbon blends as replacements for HFCs.
Natural refrigerants have been a sustainable alternative since the beginning; climate and environmentally friendly, more energy-efficient and cheaper to produce. But, the chemical industry can’t profit from this technology, so they stand in the way of it. Our socio-economic system is built around profit at all costs. That means that corporate power can take over a process that was originally set up to repair the ozone layer and protect the planet from overheating.
The world has changed dramatically in the seven years since negotiations started. But there are some old power dynamics that won’t change until someone decides that they have to. And that is why we need to keep pushing industry to prioritise the health of the planet and its people over their profits.
We will keep on fighting for the ‘impossible’ until it becomes possible, because that is what we do. We fight for people power. And eventually, we win.
Paula Tejón Carbajal is a Strategist and F gases expert with Greenpeace International