(CN) - A coalition of nearly 200 nations has approved a timetable to stop using hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), greenhouse gases that are significantly more damaging than carbon dioxide.
The agreement inked this week in Rwanda's capital, Kigali, outlines the timetable for nations to reduce their use of the HFCs. Most industrialized nations will begin to cut back on HFCs by 2018, while China, Africa and Brazil will begin by 2024 and others will ramp down beginning in 2028.
HFCs are chemical refrigerants often used in air conditioners, refrigerators and cars, and ironically contribute to global warming. Reducing their usage is regarded as an important aspect of a larger global effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and avoid warming the planet to a point where more severe effects of climate change are felt.
"By acting now, we're avoiding up to a full half a degree centigrade (0.9 degrees Fahrenheit) of warming by the end of the century. This is a big deal, because our scientists say very clearly that we must keep our planet's temperature from rising 2 degrees (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above our normal temperature," U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy said in a statement.
McCarthy and Secretary of State John Kerry participated in the negotiations, which were seven years in the making and required a partnership between rich and poor nations, including some where air conditioners are a newly introduced luxury.
"It is likely the single most important step we could take at this moment to limit the warming of our planet and limit the warming for generations to come," Kerry said during negotiations.
While the Paris climate agreement of 2015 was met with widespread coverage and praise, the Kigali talks have gotten less attention, possibly due to the lack of public awareness of HFCs and their impact on the climate - they represent a small percentage of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere but have 1,000 times the heat-trapping potency of carbon dioxide.
The Paris agreement focused on carbon dioxide emissions from fossils fuels that power electric plants, vehicles and factories.
The deal struck in Kigali is an amendment to the Montreal Protocol, a historic 1987 agreement that aimed to close the hole in the ozone layer by banning ozone-depleting coolants called chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs. Because it is an amendment to the Montreal Protocol, the Kigali agreement has the legal force of a treaty.
"Yes, there will be challenges ahead. But the past week reminds us that when faced with clear science, when buoyed by the strong partnership of developed and developing countries working together, we can make great strides to protect the one planet we have," McCarthy said.Follow @SeanDuffyCNS
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