Marshall Islands first to ratify greenhouse gas pact

Majuro (Marshall Islands), Feb 28 (IANS) Marshall Islands, a low-lying atoll nation in the Pacific Ocean, on Tuesday became the first country to ratify a 2016 United Nations accord to cut the use of greenhouse gases, saying it will not survive without urgent action to cut emissions globally.

Its parliament gave its approval to the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, four months after the Marshall Islands worked with the Federated States of Micronesia through the 30 plus country High Ambition Coalition to secure the historic amendment.

The Kigali Amendment was adopted by the 28th Meeting of Parties to the Montreal Protocol on October 15 last year in Rwandan capital Kigali.

Under the amendment, all countries will gradually phase down hydrofluorocarbons or HFCs, a policy move that would avoid up to 0.5 degree Celsius of global warming by the end of the century, while continuing to protect the ozone layer.

“My country will not survive without urgent action to cut emissions by every country and every sector of our economies, including HFCs,” said President Hilda Heine as per an official statement.

“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 degree Celsius,” she said.

At the Kigali meeting, nearly 200 nations approved a timetable to stop the use of gases whose elimination could reduce global warming by the end of the century.

HFCs, used in refrigerators and air conditioners, were introduced in the 1990s to replace chemicals that had been found to erode the ozone layer, but turned out to be catastrophic.

The Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol builds on the strong global momentum for multilateral efforts to address climate change, including the landmark Paris Agreement, which will enter into force on November 4 last year.

Following seven years of negotiations, the Montreal Protocol parties reached a compromise in Kigali, under which developed countries will start to phase down HFCs by 2019.

As per the amendment, the A2 (developed) countries have agreed to a baseline of 2011-2013 with cuts in HFCs beginning in 2019. In fact, the US, the European Union and other countries have already started.

Meanwhile, the A5 (developing) countries have agreed to two sub-groups with two different baselines.

A5 Group 2 includes India, Pakistan, Iran and Iraq — with a baseline of 2024 -2026 and a freeze date of 2028.

China, Brazil, South Africa, Argentina and more than 100 other developing countries committed to freeze their HFC production and use by 2024.

The baseline year determines the level at which the HFC consumption in countries are capped.

By the late 2040s, all countries are expected to consume no more than 15-20 per cent of their respective baselines, says the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).