The effects of climate change have repeatedly wreaked havoc in Pakistan, including melting glaciers, landslides, droughts and flash floods. The natural disasters are then complemented with mass industrialisation and pollution, adding to the damage of natural ecosystems.

The 200 member countries of the Montreal Protocol met this week and agreed on a landmark deal to reduce emissions of powerful greenhouse gases (GHG), hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, which can be 10,000 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. HFCs are potent greenhouse gases commonly used in refrigeration and air conditioning instead of other ozone-depleting substances. This historic deal could prevent up to 0.5 degrees Celsius (0.9 degrees Fahrenheit) of global warming by the end of this century, a significant win for countries vulnerable to climate change like Pakistan.

The agreement in Kigali, Rwanda comes only days after the Paris Agreement on climate change, which calls for the world to become carbon neutral this century, became an international law. Due to a growing demand for cooling, particularly in developing countries like Pakistan, with hot climates and an expanding middle class, HFC emissions were increasing by 10% globally every year. The clause that makes this deal fair for all members involved, is that developing nations have been given a longer timeframe in which to freeze their use of the damaging gases. Pakistan, India, Iran, Iraq, and the Gulf countries have been given till 2028 to meet the deadline, after which trade sanctions could possibly be imposed on products that use HFCs.

A scientific panel advised the signatories to the deal that phasing out HFCs would cost between $4 billion and $6 billion. Considering the cost, the deal will prove much harder for Pakistan, India, China and other developing countries to strike as their companies have relied on old refrigeration and coolant technologies with little funding for research for alternatives.

Pakistan must invest heavily in R&D and upgrade or replace their factories. We cannot afford to contribute to a deteriorating environment, when natural like floods and desertification have already made the future of our generations insecure.