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Climate Talks

U.S. and China agree to Phase Out HFCs

U.S. and China agree to Phase Out HFCs
U.S. and China agree to work together in phasing out HFCs. Image Source:

United States President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping have agreed to work together, along with other countries, to phase out hydrofluorocarbons – a move that was warmly received by the United Nations.

During a retreat in California over the weekend, the two presidents agreed to work together, and through multilateral approaches with other countries, to phase out HFCs – greenhouse gases used in appliances such as air conditioners and refrigerators that contribute greatly to global warming.

Originally used to replace chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, HFCs were thought to not have any impact on the ozone layer. However, it was then later discovered that HFCs were very potent greenhouse gases on their own. And with current dependence on HFCs growing, it is estimated that its emissions will be equivalent to 3.5 to 8.8 gigatons of carbon dioxide emissions come 2050.

The agreement between the two nations was done in accordance with the Montreal Protocol which calls for the total phase out of HFCs by 2030. Both U.S. and China have agreed to cooperate in targeting the greenhouse gasses with help from the experts and institutions of the Montreal Protocol.

With China and U.S. being the major producers of greenhouse gas in the world, 23 percent and 19 percent as of 2008, respectively, U.N. Under Secretary-General and Executive Director of the U.N. Environment Program Achim Steiner is hopeful, saying that “Along with a variety of recent signals from several key countries including China and the United States, this one of HFCs by these two economies is welcome as the world moves towards a universal U.N. treaty on climate change by 2015…”

“The signal from [the heads of U.S. and China] is important as both a confidence builder and if it paves the way to a universal agreement involving all nations…” Mr. Steiner added that the agreement between U.S. and China could be the “transformational chapter” when it comes to international cooperation against climate change.

Amidst the groundbreaking agreement between the two countries, the U.N. Under Secretary-General warned that in order to keep an average global temperature of under 2 degrees C during this century requires the cooperation of every country. He emphasized the need for urgency in dealing with greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, as part of negotiations under the U.N. Climate Convention.

Meanwhile, U.S., Canada, and Mexico have proposed for the past four years to amend the Montreal Protocol – to slowly reduce the use and production, and to control the emissions of HFCs in all countries, and to require reporting from all countries involved.

Completely phasing out HFCs could reduce carbon dioxide emissions equivalent to two years worth of current global greenhouse gas emissions, approximately 90 gigatons of the greenhouse gas by 2050. – EcoSeed Staff

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