Today, President Obama reached separate agreements with the G-20 and with China to combat global climate change by addressing the rapid growth in the use and release of climate-damaging hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).
Two statements on HFCs were released today, one in the context of the G20 Leaders’ Declaration and one bilaterally with China.
First, G-20 leaders expressed their support for initiatives that are complementary to efforts under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), including using the expertise and institutions of the Montreal Protocol to phase down the production and consumption of HFCs, while retaining HFCs within the scope of the UNFCCC and its Kyoto Protocol for accounting and reporting of emissions.
This was agreed by the following countries: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey,the United Kingdom, the United States, and the European Union, as well as Ethiopia, Spain, Senegal, Brunei, Kazakhstan, and Singapore.
The G-20 agreement on HFCs reads as follows:
We also support complementary initiatives, through multilateral approaches that include using the expertise and the institutions of the Montreal Protocol to phase down the production and consumption of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), based on the examination of economically viable and technically feasible alternatives. We will continue to include HFCs within the scope of UNFCCC and its Kyoto Protocol for accounting and reporting of emissions.
Second, building on their June 8 accord on HFCs in Sunnylands, President Obama and President Xi agreed at their bilateral meeting as a next step on HFCs to establish a contact group under the Montreal Protocol to consider issues related to cost-effectiveness, financial and technology support, safety, environmental benefits, and an amendment to the Montreal Protocol.
The agreement between President Obama and President Xi on HFCs reads as follows:
We reaffirm our announcement on June 8, 2013 that 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. We emphasize the importance of the Montreal Protocol, including as a next step through the establishment of an open-ended contact group to consider all relevant issues, including financial and technology support to Article 5 developing countries, cost effectiveness, safety of substitutes, environmental benefits and an amendment. We reiterate our firm commitment to work together and with other countries to agree on a multilateral solution.
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 whose use is growing rapidly as replacements for ozone-depleting substances being phased out under the Montreal Protocol. Left unabated, HFC emissions could grow to nearly 20 percent of carbon dioxide emissions by 2050, a serious climate mitigation concern.
The Montreal Protocol was established in 1987 to protect the 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 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.
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 reduce consumption and production and control byproduct emissions of HFCs in all countries, and includes a financial assistance component for countries that can already access the Protocol’s Multilateral Fund. The proposal leaves unchanged the reporting and accounting provisions of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and Kyoto Protocol on HFC emissions.
Reducing HFCs are an important domestic component of the President’s Climate Action Plan, as well. For example, the Administration has already acted domestically by including a flexible and powerful incentive in fuel efficiency and carbon pollution standards for cars and trucks to encourage automakers to reduce HFC leakage and transition away from the most potent HFCs in vehicle air conditioning systems. Moving forward, the Environmental Protection Agency will use its authority through the Significant New Alternatives Policy Program to encourage private sector investment in low-emissions technology by identifying and approving climate-friendly chemicals while prohibiting certain uses of the most harmful chemical alternatives. In addition, the President has directed his Administration to purchase cleaner alternatives to HFCs whenever feasible and transition over time to equipment that uses safer and more sustainable alternatives.