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Rwanda, Climate Change and World Unity

David Langness | Nov 19, 2016

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

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David Langness | Nov 19, 2016

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

God grant that the people of the world may be graciously aided to preserve the light of His loving counsels within the globe of wisdom. We cherish the hope that everyone may be adorned with the vesture of true wisdom, the basis of the government of the world. – Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 166.

A few weeks ago, officials from 197 nations gathered in the African country of Rwanda, at the annual meeting of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and forged a pioneering global agreement on climate change.

If you use a refrigerator or an air conditioner, you’ll want to know about that new agreement.

The Rwanda Accord, an addendum to the 1987 Montreal Protocols on climate change, will now regulate the production and use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), the organic compounds containing fluorine and hydrogen atoms that allow air conditioners and refrigerators to cool things down.

Hardly anyone, including the worldwide media, paid much attention to this accord, although it may be even more important, and more impactful, than the Paris Climate Accords reached in 2015. Basically, the agreement legally regulates the world’s use of HFCs, one of the most powerful planet-warming chemicals.

In Paris in 2015, negotiators hammered out a global climate agreement in which all the world’s countries voluntarily pledged to cut emissions of carbon dioxide (CO₂), the climate-heating by-product of burning fossil fuels like coal and oil. But in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, negotiators had a single goal in 2016: to stop the use of HFCs, which have a thousand times more heat-trapping capability than carbon dioxide.

It took the world seven years of talks, scientific research and negotiations to reach the Rwanda Accord. The completed agreement calls on the world’s richest nations to freeze production of the chemicals, while giving poorer, developing nations in hot equatorial zones more time to meet specific targets and timetables. The wealthier countries will also help poorer countries fund their compliance by transitioning to costlier but much less harmful chemicals.

Expert climate scientists and researchers have determined that the Rwanda Accord will amount to a decrease of predicted atmospheric temperatures of nearly one degree Fahrenheit.

The new Accord, then, constitutes a critical step in averting the projected two-degree Centigrade temperature increase scientists say will produce inevitable and catastrophic future environmental impacts. The Rwanda international treaty will reduce the equivalent of 70 billion tons of CO₂ from the planet’s atmosphere, twice the carbon emitted worldwide each year.

In total, the binding Rwanda deal will lead to the reduction of the equivalent of 70 billion tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere — about two times the carbon pollution produced annually by the entire world. How does it work? The world’s richest countries, including the EU and the U.S., agreed to freeze the production and consumption of HFCs by 2018, and reduce them to approximately 15 percent of 2012 levels by 2036. Mid-level economies like Brazil and China agreed to cap their HFC use and production by 2024, and reduce it to much lower levels by 2045. The world’s hottest nations, including India, Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, will meet that timeline with a 2028 cap and a 2047 reduction goal.

Even though their nations qualified for the lowest compliance tier, all of the hottest and poorest equatorial countries in Africa actually agreed to join the mid-level timetable, because their leadership wanted to battle climate change more rapidly.

“Africa is a continent that is deeply vulnerable to climate change,” Vincent Biruta, Rwanda’s minister of natural resources told the New York Times. “We are witnessing disastrous droughts—our people are losing lives. We need to address climate change if we are to address poverty.”

For those who claim that the world has insufficient motivation or unity to accomplish meaningful greenhouse gas restrictions, the Rwanda Accord proves them wrong.

In fact, the Paris Accords and the Rwanda Accords (which some call the Kigali Accords, after the Rwandan capital city where the treaty was actually signed) have amply demonstrated that the international community can come together in unity and harmony on important global issues.

This bodes well for the future, and for an increasing level of international agreement, cooperation and order—exactly the conditions the Baha’i teachings recommend for building a peaceful global system of governance:

From every standpoint the world of humanity is undergoing a re-formation. The laws of former governments and civilizations are in process of revision, scientific ideas and theories are developing and advancing to meet a new range of phenomena, invention and discovery are penetrating hitherto unknown fields revealing new wonders and hidden secrets of the material universe; industries have vastly wider scope and production; everywhere the world of mankind is in the throes of evolutionary activity indicating the passing of the old conditions and advent of the new age of reformation…

While this is true and apparent, it is, likewise, evident that the Lord of mankind has bestowed infinite bounties upon the world in this century of maturity and consummation. The ocean of divine mercy is surging, the vernal showers are descending, the Sun of Reality is shining gloriously. Heavenly teachings applicable to the advancement in human conditions have been revealed in this merciful age. This reformation and renewal of the fundamental reality of religion constitute the true and outworking spirit of modernism, the unmistakable light of the world, the manifest effulgence of the Word of God, the divine remedy for all human ailment and the bounty of eternal life to all mankind. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 439.

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