White House teams up with big companies to cut greenhouse gases ahead of UN Summit

Clare Saxon Ghauri
17 September 2014

NEW YORK: The White House has just announced new private commitments and federal actions to cut emissions of hydroflourocarbons (HFCs) - powerful greenhouse gases that exacerbate climate change.

The move comes one week ahead of the UN Climate Summit in New York, where 125 heads of state and government are expected to announce further bold steps in the fight against climate disruption. Climate Week NYC will be the collaborative space for all related events in support of the Summit - where politics, business and civil society will discuss solutions and achievements around climate action.

Obama Administration's HFCs curb will remove the equivalent of 700 million metric tons of carbon dioxide through to 2025, which is equal to taking nearly 15 million cars off the road for 10 years.

These human-made gases are mainly used in air conditioning and refrigeration. But while they may be part of everyday life for most people, they are very dangerous for the environment: their global warming potential is up to 10,000 times that of carbon dioxide.

HFCs have been increasingly produced since the 1987 Montreal Protocol, a landmark global agreement to stop the consumption and production of two other gases which were depleting the stratospheric ozone layer, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), by 2013-15.

Unfortunately this ban led to the development of ozone-friendly alternatives which are still harmful greenhouse gases, like HFCs.

The US Environmental Protection Agency shows that between 1990 and 2012, HFC use in the US increased by 310%, and is projected to grow by nearly 140% between 2005 and 2020.

This is why US businesses and the Government teamed up to reverse the trend with these new commitments. Big corporations from the retail and chemicals sectors have pledged to replace HFCs used in their coolers with alternatives that are harmless to both the ozone and global warming.

Leading the way is Coca-Cola, the world’s largest beverage company, which has committed to use only cold drink equipment that is HFC-free. So far, the company has more than 1 million such machines in use, which is 30% of its total. PepsiCo, another leading food and beverage company, has set the same goal for 2020 for its US equipment - and has already increased its energy efficiency by more than 60% from 2004. Red Bull, the energy-drink company, will order about 32,000 climate-friendly hydrocarbon coolers for 2015.

The US government will promote HFC alternatives in its offices and vehicles, and the Department of Energy will also fund researchers to develop new cleaner technologies for cooling and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems.

Last year, Obama’s administration strengthened Montreal’s parameters to curb HFCs thanks to a separate agreement with the G-20 (the forum for 20 major economies) and China. In Europe, a similar regulation is in force since 2006, and a new one - aiming to save 1.5 Gigatonnes of CO2-equivalent by 2030 and 5 Gigatonnes by 2050 - will take course at the beginning of next year.

This announcement from the White House underlines the efforts many nations are making to show their climate achievements and pledges during the UN Climate Summit. On September 23, what will be the largest leaders’ climate meeting ever organized, will pave the way to the climate talks in Paris 2015, where a global binding commitment to fight climate change is expected. The UN Climate Summit, taking place during Climate Week NYC, will be the foundation to strengthen these negotiations.

For a full list of Climate Week NYC events, please visit ClimateWeekNYC.org and follow the conversation on Twitter using #CWNYC.

You can also see our Climate Week NYC media resources for press releases, contacts and more info.

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