Phasing Down Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs): Four Important Things to Know

We can avoid a 0.5 Celsius increase global temperature by agreeing to an ambitious Montreal Protocol amendment this week

By Daniela Salazar

Latest updates from Kigali, Rwanda and the Montreal Protocol negotiations from the NRDC:

Kigali HFC Update #1: Why We Must Freeze and Phase Down ASAP

 Kigali HFC Update #2: Ambition Hangs in the Balance

 Kigali HFC Update #3: Seven Billion Tons on the Table
 Urgency and Flexibility To Save Our One Planet

105 countries send a clear signal that they want a strong agreement to significantly cut future HFC growth this year —JAKE SCHMIDT, Director, International program NRDC.

HFCs are a hot topic, not only because they have a global warming potential 10 times higher than CO2, but also because during October 8–14 nearly 200 nations will meet in Kigali, Rwanda to negotiate the last details of a global phase down of HFCs under the Montreal Protocol- the treaty that saved our ozone layer. We are excited and hopeful! You should be too: This is a great step towards sustainable development, especially for developing countries.

Phasing down HFCs would prevent the release of as much as 100–200 billion tons of climate-changing emissions by 2050.

What are HFCs? Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) are one of the six main greenhouse gases. These are commonly used in air conditioners and refrigeration systems worldwide. Although they don’t live long in the atmosphere, they contribute significantly to climate change. Phasing down HFCs is an immediate step towards climate action.

We talked to Anjali Jaiswal, our Senior Attorney and Director for the India initiative in NRDC to learn more about what is at stake this week in Kigali, Rwanda, and why this is significant for every country and community in the world. She recently traveled to India to work with the Ministry of Environment and other stakeholders on how to make the transition and phase down HFCs. This is part of what Anjali and her team have worked on to realize an ambitious agreement to phase down HFCs.

1. What can we expect from the meeting in Kigali, Rwanda?

The meeting is an opportunity for leadership and climate action. Even though there are different proposal for the timing of the phase down, we need to take action sooner rather than later. We need a date that works for all countries and markets — leaders need to come to this event ready for an agreement. Countries need to know that alternative economic financing, as well as technology transferring are feasible and will be successful.

2. Why is India so important in this process?

Their global footprint is yet to be developed, India is still growing, and there is so much potential for a coal free future! This country has yet to be fully built and it is crucial for India to incorporate sustainability as part of its development.

AC demand in India is expected to boom in the next decade. Photo: Bhaskar Deol

3. What is the connection between HFCs and the Paris Agreement?

HFCs and the Paris Agreement are connected by climate action. Phasing down HFCs will be a big step towards climate action, and for this we need a world agreement like we did with the Montreal protocol and FCFs. World leaders know it is necessary to find alternatives to HFCs.

We see the impacts of climate change everywhere — we’re seeing and experiencing erratic weather and flooding, and sadly vulnerable communities are impacted the most. These communities are losing their crops, and families are displaced. Acting on HFCs now can help reduce those impacts.

The Paris Agreement is official!— which, by happy coincidence, just came into force today. Photo by COP PARIS.

4. How can we engage locally and globally to tackle this and other environmental challenges?

There is a lot of innovation and technology around HFCs — markets are emerging with successful alternatives. For example, the U.S. and Europe have mandates on alternative technologies, with markets working to develop and distribute these alternatives. Brands such as Godrej and Daikin have products that are climate friend, and don’t use HFCs.

We as individuals can do many simple things. Reducing AC usage is key. Make sure to pull down shades at home, avoid using your AC in the car by driving when is not too hot to, use a fan instead of AC, if you are looking to rent or buy a home try to find buildings or houses that are efficient with the use of natural light and ventilation. You can also plant trees and have plants around your home and office to help you stay cool. Green walls are efficient and beautiful options too.

We all need to work together, from the top world leaders, and groups like NRDC and partners, to community leaders, consumers, and the media. We are all important stakeholders for climate action.

Climate action at your fingertips! Share this article or tweet more about the need for a global phase down of HFCs:

Deal on #HFCs this October can further success of Paris Agreement on Climate Change — UNFCCC Exec Sec @PEspinosaC.

We can avoid 0.5C of #GlobalWarming by reaching ambitious Montreal Protocol amendment in October on #HFCs

Consumers could see significant energy savings from an ambitious amendment to the Montreal Protocol next month

About Anjali Jaiswal: Anjali collaborates with local partners in India to advance energy efficiency, promote solar energy, and protect communities from the impacts of climate change. Previously, she was a member of NRDC’s litigation team, fighting for stronger efficiency standards in appliances and increased protection of wilderness. She also spent six years working with NRDC’s water program in the Los Angeles office. In 2005, Jaiswal was selected to be a fellow in the Nehru-Fulbright Indo-American Environmental Leadership program. She has been profiled by both Marie Claire and the Daily Journal. She holds a bachelor’s degree in environmental sciences from the University of California, Riverside, and a JD from Hastings College of Law. She is based in San Francisco.