Washington: For the first time, the US and China, the world`s top two greenhouse-gas emitters, have agreed to work together and with other countries to phase down the consumption and production of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) as an important new step to combat global climate change.
"Today, President (Barack) Obama and President Xi (Jinping) agreed on an important new step to confront global climate change. For the first time, the United States and China will work together and with other countries to use the expertise and institutions of the Montreal Protocol to phase down the consumption and production of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), among other forms of multilateral cooperation," the White House said in a press statement.
The statement came soon after Obama and Xi ended their maiden meeting at the desert resort at Sunnylands, just outside Palm Springs in California.
A global phase down of HFCs could potentially reduce some 90 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent by 2050, equal to roughly two years worth of current global greenhouse gas emissions, the White House statement said after the two-day informal summit.
The bilateral agreement says, "Regarding HFCs, 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.
HFCs are potent greenhouse gases used in refrigerators, air conditioners, and industrial applications. While they do not deplete the ozone layer, many are highly potent greenhouse gases. Their use is growing rapidly as replacements for ozone -depleting substances that are being phased out under the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer.
"Left unabated, HFC emissions growth could grow to nearly 20 per cent of carbon dioxide emissions by 2050, a serious climate mitigation concern," the statement said.
In 2006, China overtook the United States as the world`s biggest producer of carbon dioxide, the chief greenhouse gas. According to the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, China produced 6,200m tonnes of CO2 in 2006, compared with 5,800m tonnes from the US.
The Montreal Protocol was established in 1987 to facilitate a global approach to combat depletion of the stratospheric ozone layer. Every country in the world is a party to the Protocol, and it has successfully phased out or is in the process of phasing out several key classes of chemicals, including chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), and halons, the statement noted.
The transitions out of CFCs and HCFCs provide major ozone layer protection benefits, but the unintended consequence is the rapid current and projected future growth of climate- damaging HFCs, it said.
For the past four years, the United States, Canada, and Mexico have proposed an amendment to the Montreal Protocol to phase down the production and consumption of HFCs. The amendment would gradually reduce consumption and production and control byproduct emissions of HFCs in all countries, and require reporting in these areas, the statement said.
"The amendment includes a financial assistance component for countries that can already access the Protocol`s Multilateral Fund, and leaves unchanged the reporting and accounting provisions of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and Kyoto Protocol on HFC emissions," the statement said.