Climate negotiators meeting in Kigali, Rwanda, agreed on Oct. 15 to phase out pollutants known as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). The deal represents crucial progress toward meeting the goal of last year’s landmark Paris Agreement, which set out international targets to reduce the rate of increase in global temperatures:
HFCs, introduced widely in the 1990s to replace ozone-depleting gases, can be found in household goods such as air conditioners and refrigerators. They are thousands of times more destructive to the climate than carbon dioxide, when compared pound per pound. Scientists had warned HFC use would expand significantly in the coming decades as incomes rise in the developing world.
Other climate negotiations have been slowed by the lobbying of energy companies and fast-growing developing countries for concessions. The Kigali talks, however, benefited from businesses eager to bring HFC alternatives to market, and developing countries like Rwanda ready to show leadership.
Scientists say the Kigali deal could reduce warming by as much as 1°F by 2100, but the accord is just the latest breakthrough in climate diplomacy in recent weeks. The Paris Agreement was swiftly ratified and is set to take effect in November, and negotiators also agreed this month to a landmark deal to cut aviation emissions. Together, the international accords show a new urgency on behalf of the world to act on climate change.
This appears in the October 31, 2016 issue of TIME.