President Barack Obama and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping agreed to find ways to cut the production and use of hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, a gaseous compound used in refrigerants and insulating foams and a major source of greenhouse gases.
The US and China will work together, and with other countries, to phase down the use of HFCs, while continuing to include the potent greenhouse gas within the scope of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the White House said in a statement released over the weekend.
The use of HFCs has grown rapidly as a replacement for ozone-depleting chemicals that are being phased out under the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. While HFCs don’t deplete the ozone layer, many are highly potent greenhouse gases. If left unabated, HFC emissions growth could reach 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, the White House says.
A worldwide phase down of HFCs could potentially reduce about 90 gigatons of CO2 equivalent by 2050, equal to roughly two years worth of current global greenhouse gas emissions, the White House says.
The agreement, which was largely negotiated prior to Obama and Xi’s California Summit held over the weekend, comes on the heels of the European Union’s call for a reduction in HFCs. Earlier this month, the EU urged the UNFCCC, which governs HFC emissions, to cede responsibility for them to the Montreal Protocol, reported Bloomberg.
Other efforts to cut HFCs have surfaced over the years.
The Climate and Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants formed more than a year ago with founding partners Bangladesh, Canada, Ghana, Mexico, Sweden, and the US to reduce black carbon, HFCs and methane.
For the past four years, the US, Canada and Mexico have proposed an amendment to the Montreal Protocol to phase down the production and consumption of HFCs. The amendment would gradually reduce use and production as well as control byproduct emissions of HFCs in all countries and require reporting these areas. The amendment also includes financial assistance for developing countries to reduce their use of HFCs.
Photo: White House