Rwanda’s ambition to phase out greenhouse gases threatening environment

By Jean d’Amour Mbonyinshuti

Juliet Kabera, the Director-General of Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA)

Over the past few years, Rwanda has committed to phasing out potent greenhouse gases also known as Hydrofluorocarbons that are used in air conditioning as well as refrigeration electronics.

The move, according to environmentalists is believed to protect the environment and reduce 0.5 degree celsius of global warming.

Early in March Rwanda Environmental Management Authority (REMA) in partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme’s United for Efficiency launched a campaign to increase awareness on the benefits of embracing efficient cooling solutions.

According to Juliet Kabera, the Director-General of Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA) there is a need for cross-sector cooperation increased awareness to phase out potent greenhouse gasses known as Hydrofluorocarbons as well as cooling products that consume excessive electricity.

The campaign focuses on encouraging the public to opt for refrigerators and air conditioners to save energy and money while at the same time protecting the environment.

Available figures indicate that there are an estimated over 88,000 refrigerators in Rwanda, of which an estimated 64,000 are classified as old.

This, environmentalists noted wastes electricity worth approximately Rwf4 billion annually.

“Owning a refrigerator that helps you to keep groceries fresh and pay little for electricity as well as using air conditioners that are energy-saving is a two-fold benefit: you save money and protect the environment,” Kabera said.

The campaign is part of the Rwanda Cooling Initiative (RCOOL) which is implementing a National Cooling Strategy (NCS) on how to cost-effectively switch to sustainable cooling solutions that are consistent with the country’s sustainable development ambitions and its obligations in the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol and the Paris Climate Agreement.

“The cooling initiative is providing pathways that make it easier and more affordable to buy the latest equipment which are equipped with technologies with less harm on the planet. Enhancing thermal comfort and refrigerated conditions for food and medicines are critical for the health, well-being, and economic development of the country,” Kabera added.

She also challenged the general public who may wish to buy brand-new cooling items to always check their energy consumption and whether they are free of Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) gases.

“This is to make sure you also contribute to the protection of the environment,” she noted.

The phasing out strategy  targets users of air conditioners and refrigerators from different settings including homes, offices, grocery stores, bars, hotels, supermarkets among others that can realize significant benefits of more energy-saving and eco-friendly cooling.

In 2016, Rwanda successfully led over 150 nations and states in a historic agreement that sought to avoid up to 0.5°C of global warming caused by substances that deplete the Ozone Layer by the end of the century.

The 2016 Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol which entered into force in 2019 is an international treaty designed to phase out such powerful climate-warming gases by more than 80 per cent in the next 30 years.

In order to implement the Kigali Amendment, Rwanda enacted the National Cooling Strategy (NCS) in 2019 with the objective of optimizing the growing needs for space conditioning and refrigeration in keeping with Rwanda’s green growth pathway.

The cooling strategy helps roll out standards for cooling technologies.

 According to REMA, the country has currently reduced ozone-depleting substances by 54 per cent in an effort to fully implement the Montreal protocols by 2030.

However, the journey is still long and more efforts are needed in phasing out the substances.

Rwanda has started restricting imports of air pollutant gases used by fridges and air conditioners in the country to encourage the adoption of non-polluting cooling technologies.

An inventory that was carried out by Rwanda Environment Management Authority indicates that there are over 200,000 equipment such as fridges and air conditioners among big users of such climate-warming gases.

To cut the consumption of powerful climate-warming gases used in cooling appliances, Rwanda has drastically reduced, by 54%, the importation of gases known as ‘hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs)’ that deplete the ozone layer paving the way for implementing the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol.

Experts and dealers in cooling appliances have said that thousands of consumers ought to switch to energy-efficient and climate-friendly refrigerators and air conditioners to help Rwanda implement Amendment to cut production of Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) that are said to be powerful climate-warming gases.

The 2016 Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol which entered into force in 2019 is an international treaty designed to phase out such powerful climate-warming gases by more than 80 percent in the next 30 years.

Available environmental-friendly appliances

Jean Paul Nsengiyumva, the proprietor of Cold Air Ltd dealing in the appliances said there are cooling appliances on the domestic market which have both environmental and economic benefits.

“Besides consuming less electricity, they do not pollute the air. Going by an example, if someone used to spend 200 grams of cooling gas, the energy-efficient appliances spend around 80 grams. This means that the less cooling gas used, the less power is consumed,” he said.

Aline Uwase, a restaurant owner in Kigali city said that the old fridge she uses consumes half of the power the whole business consumes.

“The government decision to embrace energy-saving cooling appliances is timely. However, there should be a financing mechanism to help people switch to energy-efficient refrigerators because the upfront cost is high. 

Some people do not have knowledge about these energy-saving and climate-friendly refrigerators,” she said.

Thousands of refrigerators suspected

According to the domestic refrigerating appliance and room air conditioner market and feasibility assessment by Rwanda Cooling Finance Initiative (RCOOL FI), there has been a steady increase in refrigerators in the residential sector since 2012 with an estimated stock of 97,512 refrigerators owned by households in Rwanda as of last year.

Although most of the refrigerators found in households are new with 58.6 per cent bought less than three years ago, there is 36 per cent which are approximately 35,104 households who purchased their refrigerating appliances over four years ago and may still use powerful climate-warming gases, according to the assessment.

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