Coming to a consensus among nearly 200 countries on the need to cut greenhouse gas emissions is regarded by many observers as an achievement in itself – but what are the highlights of the deal?
Paris climate agreement: key elements
- To keep the global temperature increase “well below” 2.0 °C and to “pursue efforts to limit” it to 1.5 °C (compared to pre-industrial levels).
- To peak global greenhouse gas emissions “as soon as possible”, and to limit the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by human activity to the same levels that trees, soil and oceans can absorb naturally in the second half of the century.
- To review each country’s contribution to cutting emissions every five years to ensure that they meet the challenge.
- For rich countries to help poorer nations by providing “climate finance” to adapt to climate change and switch to renewable energy.
The goal of preventing what scientists regard as dangerous and irreversible levels of climate change – considered to be reached at around two degrees Celsius of warming above pre-industrial times – is central to the agreement. The desire for a more ambitious goal has been kept in the text via a promise to “pursue efforts to limit” global temperatures to 1.5 °C.
Natural refrigerants: a climate-friendly solution
The deal gives clear momentum to the heating, air-conditioning and refrigeration (HVAC&R) industry to seek viable alternatives to substances with high global-warming potential. The global phase-down of HFCs can contribute to avoiding 0.5°C warming by 2100, representing an important contribution to global mitigation efforts. The decision taken at the November Montreal Protocol meeting in Dubai to work towards an agreement to phase down HFCs in 2016 had sent a strong message to the COP21 meeting.
Even though synthetic hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) are specified as greenhouse gases under the Kyoto Protocol and have a global warming potential up to 4,000 times greater than CO2, they are still widely used in refrigeration appliances.
Natural refrigerants, however, have no or negligible impact on the climate, making them a market-ready sustainable alternative to HFCs that can help to deliver the Paris climate deal targets.
Lack of timescale remains a concern
Some observers expressed concern that the deal reached in Paris did not specify a concrete timescale for achieving the objectives agreed.