The move to amend the Montreal Protocol — which agreed the global phasing-out of chemicals that damage the ozone layer — to include climate-harming gases known as hydrofluorocarbons or HFCs, has been hailed by campaigners.
Friends of the Earth Chairwoman, Cara Augustenborg, described it as a “positive step” and the equivalent of “stopping all fossil fuel burning stations for two years”.
Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Denis Naughten said the amendment was “ a significant step towards delivering the goals of the Paris COP 21 Agreement,” he said.
He confirmed that Ireland was one of 16 countries which had pledged to contribute an additional amount of €160,000 to the multilateral fund to assist developing countries meet their obligations under the protocol.
But Ireland is one of only two European countries who are on course to miss their 2020 greenhouse gas emissions targets, according to the Environmental Pillar .
And we are also one of just two countries around the world which have yet to begin a national ratification process on the Paris agreement ahead of UN talks in Marrakesh next month on implementing the accord.
The Irish target for greenhouse gas cuts between 2021 and 20130 will be decided at European level. Ireland is pushing to reduce this target as we are already behind with the 2020 target.
HFCs have been used in recent years to replace the ozone-damaging chemicals in refrigeration and air conditioning, However they are powerful greenhouse gases which trap thousands of times more heat than carbon dioxide. They are also the fastest growing greenhouse gas, with emissions increasing by up to 10% each year, the United Nations Environment Programme (Unep) said.
Under the deal, developed countries will start to phase down HFC use by 2019, while developing countries will freeze consumption levels in 2024 or for some countries in 2028. By the late 2040s all countries are expected to consume no more than 15%-20% of their baseline levels, in a move that it is hoped will prevent up to 0.5C of global warming by the end of the century.
The deal, agreed by almost 200 countries meeting in Rwanda, is the third major agreement struck on tackling climate change in the past year.
Last December, the world’s first comprehensive treaty on climate change, the Paris Agreement, was struck in the French capital. The deal, which comes into force next month, commits countries to keep global temperature rises to “well below” 2C above pre-industrial levels and pursue efforts to keep rises to no more than 1.5C.
Earlier this month, a deal was agreed to curb the growing emissions from international flights.
UN environment chief Erik Solheim said: “Last year in Paris, we promised to keep the world safe from the worst effects of climate change. Today, we are following through on that promise. This is about much more than the ozone layer and HFCs. It is a clear statement by all world leaders that the green transformation started in Paris is irreversible and unstoppable. It shows the best investments are those in clean, efficient technologies,” he said.