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U.S. and China agree to reduce climate-damaging HFCs

June 10, 2013 at 1:24 PM   |   Comments

WASHINGTON, June 10 (UPI) -- The United States and China have agreed to reduce the use of hydro fluorocarbons, or HFCs, a heat-trapping pollutant typically used in refrigerators, air conditioners and other industrial and household products.

The announcement from the White House Saturday came as U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping concluded a two-day meeting in California.

The two countries agreed to work together and with other countries through the Montreal Protocol -- a 1987 United Nations-hosted treaty established to protect the ozone layer -- to phase down the consumption and production of the chemicals.

Noting that every country in the world is a party to the 1987 Protocol, the White House said that as a result, several key classes of chemicals, including chlorofluorocarbons and hydro chlorofluorocarbons have successfully been phased out or are in the process of being phased out. Because HFCs are typically used as a substitute, the White House said, "the unintended consequence is the rapid current and projected future growth of climate-damaging HFCs.

"A global phase down of HFCs could potentially reduce some 90 gigatons of CO2 equivalent by 2050, equal to roughly two years worth of current global greenhouse gas emissions," the White House said in a release.

"Left unabated, HFC emissions growth could grow to nearly 20 percent of carbon dioxide emissions by 2050, a serious climate mitigation concern," it said.

The Hill newspaper reported that congressional Democrats wrote to Obama last week, urging him to address climate change issues, and specifically HFCs, while meeting with the Chinese president.

Achim Steiner, U.N. undersecretary-general and executive director of the U.N. Environment Program, in a statement said the U.S.-China agreement could signal a new and perhaps transformational chapter in international cooperation on climate change.

"Along with a variety of recent signals from several key countries including China and the United States, this one on HFCs by these two key economies is welcome as the world moves towards a universal U.N. treaty on climate change by 2015," Steiner said.

"Certainly, allowing the market for HFCs to grow will only aggravate the challenge of combating climate change," he added.

UNEP noted its Climate and Clean Air Coalition initiated last February is working in partnership with more than 60 countries and organizations to phase-down some HFCs and other climate pollutants considered short-lived, such as black carbon or "soot" and methane.

The Australian Climate Commission, in its report "The Critical Decade: Global Action Building on Climate Change" released in April, said China and the United States together produce approximately 37 percent of world emissions.

The report says China, the world's largest CO2 emitter, is reducing its "emissions growth." But that means China is still increasing its emissions, just at a slower pace than previously.

© 2013 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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