Marshall Islands first nation to ratify global HFC pact

The low-lying Marshall Islands in the Pacific Ocean has become the first country to ratify a global deal to slash the use of hydrofluorocarbons, a powerful greenhouse gas.

The Kigali amendment to the Montreal Protocol was agreed to by almost 200 countries in 2016. It aims to reduce the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) by 80 per cent over the next 30 years.

According to Reuters, HFCs – which are used in refrigerants and air conditioning – are 10,000 times more powerful than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas.

Now, the Marshall Islands in the Pacific Ocean has made history when it became the first nation on Tuesday to ratify the global agreement. The nation’s president took to Twitter to announce that her parliament had voted in favour of the ratification.

With a population of 53,000, the Marshall Islands are vulnerable to rising sea levels caused by melting ice.

“My country will not survive without urgent action to cut emissions by every country and every sector of our economies, including HFCs,” said the president of the Marshall Islands Hilda Heine.

“This deal is good for our people, the planet, and the profits of those that follow in our footsteps.”

The Marshall Islands was also the first nation to ratify the 2015 Paris climate agreement. On Tuesday, Heine drew a direct parallel between the two agreements.

“Our rapid ratification of the Kigali Amendment is yet another demonstration of our commitment to the Paris Agreement. We now need others to quickly do the same in order to help keep global temperature increases within 1.5 C.”

Climate Home reported that the country’s foreign minister John Silk would deposit the ratification at the UN in New York at the soonest possible moment. The agreement will enter into legal force on 1 January 2019 if at least 20 nations have formally ratified by then.

HFCs became a popular alternative for chlorofluorocarbons after the latter were discovered to damage the ozone layer. But scientists later discovered that HFCs are a potent greenhouse gas. Eliminating HFCs – which are not covered by the Paris Agreement – could help prevent up to 0.5 C of warming, according to AFP.


Image credit: Hilda Heine


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