US and China Agree to Phase Out Super Greenhouse Gases

India and Brazil urged to follow suit

Jun 10, 2013, 17:06 ET from Environmental Investigation Agency

WASHINGTON, June 10, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- U.S. President Obama and Chinese President XI have agreed to work together to combat climate change by curbing hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) - super greenhouse gases with global warming potential hundreds and thousands times higher than carbon dioxide (CO2).

The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), an international campaigning organization committed to investigating and exposing environmental crime, applauds both countries, that comprise the largest producers and consumers of HFCs, for beginning discussions on phasing down HFCs under the Montreal Protocol.

"It's encouraging to see that China and the United States aren't going to hold HFCs hostage under international climate negotiations," said Mark Roberts, international policy advisor for EIA. "The bilateral agreement between China and the United States sends a strong signal for other countries like India and Brazil to follow suit."

HFCs are chemicals primarily used in refrigeration, air conditioning and foam blowing. They were commercialized to replace the ozone depleting chemicals phased-out by the Montreal Protocol. Even though environmentally friendly alternatives are commercially available for most HFC uses and many more are under development, countries like the United States and China continue using the climate destroying chemicals.  

"There's an easy solution to the HFC problem with climate friendly alternatives readily available," said Roberts. "If the largest consumers of HFCs are agreeing to phase down these potent greenhouse gases, other countries should join the consensus and take real action to combat climate change."

A global phase-down of HFCs will prevent emissions of approximately 100 billion tons of CO2 equivalents by 2050. With concerted effort, the U.S. and China can work with the 111 countries that have already committed to phase-down the chemicals by 2030.  The HFC phase-down will help slow climate change and sea level rise, as well as prevent the world from reaching irreversible climatic "tipping points."

Notes to Editor:

  • According to the 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.
  • Under the Montreal Protocol, all 197 Parties have accepted firm reduction commitments. These commitments are based upon the legal principle of common but differentiated responsibilities that incorporate a grace period for developing countries.  This allows them to implement mandated phase-out schedules after developed countries, in recognition of developed countries' larger historical contribution to ozone depletion and developing countries' right to continued growth and development. In addition, the Montreal Protocol has financially supported the phase-out of ODS in developing countries through developed country contributions administered by the Multilateral Fund.
  • The Montreal Protocol is hailed as the most successful multilateral environmental treaty having rid the world of 97% of ozone depleting chemicals while providing extra time and technical and financial assistance to developing countries.  Despite all of its success, the Montreal Protocol risks negating its contribution to combating climate change through its commercialization of HFCs. The United States, Canada, and Mexico recognized that risk and have put forth an amendment proposal to the Montreal Protocol to phase down HFCs every year since 2009. Although 111 countries have voiced support for an HFC phase-down, opposition from China, India, Brazil, and a handful of other countries has thwarted action.

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SOURCE Environmental Investigation Agency