US and China reach historic agreement on HFCs

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10 June 2013

NEW YORK: At a summit taking place near Palm Springs, California over the weekend, US President Barak Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping reached an historic agreement to phase down the production and consumption of HFCs, a potent greenhouse gas.

The agreement suggests using the Montreal Protocol – an international treaty created in 1987 to address depletion of the ozone layer – as the means for achieving the emissions reductions.

Protocol success

The Montreal Protocol has been largely successful in phasing out ozone-depleting substances such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), and halons.

In recent years, countries like the US, Canada and Mexico have proposed also using the mechanism to phase down HFCs, which are currently covered under the Kyoto Protocol.

According to the official agreement:

“The United States and China agreed to work together and with other countries through multilateral approaches that include using the expertise and institutions of the Montreal Protocol to phase down the production and consumption of HFCs, while continuing to include HFCs within the scope of UNFCCC and its Kyoto Protocol provisions for accounting and reporting of emissions.”

International collaboration

The agreement signals a very positive development in the overall US-China relationship on climate change and could have a major impact.

The US Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the HFC phase-down could reduce global emissions by over 84 gigatons (Gt) of carbon dioxide equivalent through 2050, which is equal to about two years worth of current global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and more than twelve years of US emissions.

Rep. Henry A. Waxman, Ranking Member of the US House Committee on Energy and Commerce said: “The United States and China working together to tackle climate change is a major breakthrough. A global phase-down of HFCs would eliminate more heat-trapping gases by 2050 than the United States emits in an entire decade.”

Wider impact

Evan Juska, Head of US Policy, The Climate Group said: “Of all the bi-lateral agreements reached by the US and China on climate change in recent years, this one has the potential to be the most impactful. Using the Montreal Protocol to phase down HFCs could reduce global emissions significantly by mid-century. And a successful partnership between the US and China on HFCs could lead to further cooperation on other GHGs in the future.”

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