Rwanda is ready to host international climate talks with air conditioning refrigerants at the forefront, as nearly 200 countries try to work out a deal to remove hydrofluorocarbons (HFC) from the environment faster.
The week-long meeting in Kigali begins Saturday, where national delegates will discuss an amendment to the Montreal Protocol On Substances. The change would more aggressively accelerate the rate of HFC phase-out, while boosting a global commitment to energy efficiency in appliances.
Morocco’s King Mohammed VI is expected to join Rwandan President Paul Kagame at the meeting, as the two countries jointly champion action on the amendment ahead of COP22 in Morocco next month.
Participants hope to find agreement on how to meet the growing global demand for air conditioning and refrigeration, while halting the climate damage caused by HFCs. A unit of HFC traps up to 23,000 times the heat of a unit of CO2, making these refrigerants more damaging than emerging alternatives.
A fast HFC phasedown would eliminate the equivalent of 100 billion tons of CO2 by 2050 and reduce warming temps, according to the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development.
There are currently 900 million room air conditioners worldwide, the institute said, as cooling accounts for up to 50 percent of peak power use during the hot season of some countries. The number of air conditioners is expected to hit 2.5 billion by 2050, as populations increase and developing-world incomes rise.
Mat Santamouris, a professor of energy physics at the University of New South Wales in Australia, says residential air conditioning alone could spike global energy consumption 750 percent by the same year, if building and appliance efficiency aren’t improved.
The move is widely accepted among participating countries, though India advocates a slower path.
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