What Makes the Kigali Agreement so ‘Monumental’ for Climate Change?

ENVIRONMENT

More than 170 countries have agreed to limit emissions of key pollutants found in air conditioners, a significant step in the effort to keep climate change from reaching catastrophic levels. (Time)

How do greenhouse gases cause atmospheric warming? Use our activity to find out.

Teachers, scroll down for a quick list of key resources in our Teachers Toolkit.

The tropical heat of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, makes air conditioners like these important to a comfortable life! Malaysia is one of more than 170 nations that have agreed to begin phasing out use of HFCs in air conditioners. Photograph by Tinou Bao, courtesy Wikimedia. CC-BY-2.0

The tropical heat of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, makes air conditioners like these important to a comfortable life! Malaysia is one of more than 170 nations that have agreed to begin phasing out use of HFCs in air conditioners.
Photograph by Tinou Bao, courtesy Wikimedia. CC-BY-2.0

Discussion Ideas

  • More than 170 nations have signed the Kigali Agreement, a “monumental” agreement to limit emissions from HFCs, a set of greenhouse gases. What are greenhouse gases? Use our short resource on the greenhouse effect for some help.
    • Greenhouse gases are atmospheric gases that absorb solar heat reflected by the surface of the Earth, warming our atmosphere. Greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide, methane, water vapor, and ozone.
    • Greenhouse gases let the sun’s light shine onto the Earth’s surface, but they trap the heat that reflects back up into the atmosphere. In this way, these naturally occurring gases act like the glass walls of a greenhouse. This greenhouse effect keeps the Earth warm enough to sustain life.
    • Since the Industrial Revolution, people have been releasing large quantities of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere today, for example, far exceeds the natural range seen over the last 650,000 years. The emission of greenhouse gases is the leading cause of anthropogenic climate change.

 

 

  • The complex Kigali Agreement sets three pathways to reduce HFC use. What are they?
    • The three pathways are largely defined by a country’s economic development.
      • Wealthy, developed countries, such as the United States and the European Union, will start to limit their use of HFCs within a few years and make a cut of at least 10% from 2019.
      • Rapidly developing countries, including many in Latin America, will freeze their use of HFCs starting in 2024.
      • Developing countries, specifically India, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq and the Gulf states, will freeze their use starting in 2028.

 

  • Why do some supporters think the Kigali Agreement is “much, much, much stronger” than the Paris agreements of 2015?
    • “[W]hile the Paris pledges are broad, they are also voluntary, often vague and dependent on the political will of future world leaders. In contrast, the Kigali deal includes specific targets and timetables to replace HFCs with more planet-friendly alternatives, trade sanctions to punish scofflaws, and an agreement by rich countries to help finance the transition of poor countries to the costlier replacement products. So … the new accord may be more likely to yield climate-shielding actions by industry and governments, negotiators say.”

 

  • Why do some environmentalists think the Kigali Agreement “is a big deal, but it could have been bigger”?
    • HFC emissions contribute far less to climate change than carbon emissions. (They are more potent, but less widely used.)
    • Alternatives to HFCs have significant challenges: toxicity, price, flammability.
    • Developing countries in hot regions with serious use for HFC-based air conditioners, such as the Gulf States, will not have to limit emissions for more than 10 years.
    • China, the world’s largest producer of HFCs, will not start to cut their production or use until 2029.

 

TEACHERS TOOLKIT

Time: Countries Reach Landmark Deal to Limit Global Warming From Air Conditioners

BBC: Climate change: ‘Monumental’ deal to cut HFCs, fastest growing greenhouse gases

New York Times: Nations, Fighting Powerful Refrigerant That Warms Planet, Reach Landmark Deal

Nat Geo: Interactions Within Earth’s Atmospheres activity

Nat Geo: What is the Greenhouse Effect?

2 responses to “What Makes the Kigali Agreement so ‘Monumental’ for Climate Change?

  1. Pingback: This Week in Geographic History, December 5 – 11 | Nat Geo Education Blog·

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