Kerry meets Chinese, Indian ministers on cutting HFC greenhouse gases

Reuters News
Posted: Oct 14, 2016 4:49 AM

By Lesley Wroughton

KIGALI (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met Chinese and Indian ministers on Friday in an effort to narrow gaps on reaching a global deal to cut greenhouse gases used in refrigerators and air conditioners.

Kerry arrived in the Rwandan capital Kigali on Thursday to join talks among roughly 150 nations negotiating ways to phase down factory-made hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) gases. If successful, a deal would be the third significant step in fighting climate change this month.

A quick phase-down of HFCs could be a major contribution to slowing climate change, avoiding perhaps 0.5 degrees Celsius (0.9 Fahrenheit) of a projected rise in average temperatures by 2100, scientists say.

Asked whether a deal was likely, Kerry told reporters: "We're here to work for one."

"We'll see what happens," he added as he started a meeting with Zhai Qing, China's deputy minister of environmental protection, on the sidelines of the main talks.

Kerry also met Indian Environment Minister Anil Madhav Dave and was to address a meeting of all delegates later in the day.

U.S. officials, speaking before Kerry's visit, said they were optimistic a deal could be reached.

India, the world's third largest emitter of greenhouse gases, is under pressure to speed up its plans for cutting HFCs. Its government wants poor nations to be allowed until 2031 to start bringing them down, in order to give industries time to adapt. More than 100 nations including the United States, the European Union and African states favor a peak in 2021.

Environmental groups have called for an ambitious agreement on cutting HFCs to limit the damage from the roughly 1.6 billion new air conditioning units expected to come on stream by 2050 amid increased demand from a rapidly expanding middle class in Asia, Latin America and Africa.

An HFC accord would add to the Paris Agreement on limiting global temperatures rises clinched in December, and which came into force this month, and a deal to limit emissions from aviation clinched in October.

Use of HFCs, which can be 10,000 times more powerful than carbon dioxide as greenhouse gases, is already declining in many rich nations.

The HFC talks are part of the 1987 Montreal Protocol, which succeeded in phasing out the use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), also widely used at that time in refrigeration and aerosols. The aim was to protect the ozone layer, which shields the planet from ultraviolet rays that can cause skin cancer.

(Additional reporting by Clement Uwiringiyimana; Editing by Edmund Blair and Mark Trevelyan)