The US and China have announced plans to cooperate on phasing out a set of potent greenhouse gases known as hydrofluorocarbons.
The agreement was made during a US-China summit held in California this weekend. It is understood that climate change was high on the agenda following the establishment of a working group earlier this year to explore areas for cooperation on climate and energy.
“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,” the White House said in a statement.
The US bicameral task force on climate change highlighted the scale of the opportunity for short term climate gains if the two nations were to work together to phase out the chemicals, which are primarily used for refrigeration and air conditioning.
Together the countries account for 43% of global emissions, while some scientists have predicted that if emissions of HFCs continue to grow, they could be responsible for 20% or more of the global atmospheric warming by 2050.
HFCs have a shorter life in the atmosphere and are produced in smaller volumes to CO2 but can be thousands of times more potent at warming the atmosphere.
There are growing calls for the same UN mechanism that eradicated the use of HFC’s ozone depleting predecessor, to be amended to include HFCs as well.
“This is a significant step forward for the two nations that are the largest emitters of greenhouses gases. It’s the kind of international cooperation we’ll need to drive a comprehensive solution,” said Fred Krupp, president of Environmental Defense Fund.
The Montreal Protocol successfully phased out CFCs, an ozone depleting gas and is considered one of the most successful piece of environmental legislation ever. HFC was one of the replacement gases.
The Montreal Protocol was designed for all the same industrial sectors that HFCs are used in today leading many to believe it is the perfect tool to cut HFCs.