Meeting during the G-20, President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping have agreed to establish a contact group under the Montreal Protocol on the potent greenhouse gases known as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) — a significant step following the presidential agreement to work together on HFCs three months ago. The G-20 also announced it supported serious progress in the U.N. climate talks in addition to using the Montreal Protocol to phase down HFCs. This could mean serious momentum for quick action to cut greenhouse gases now.This news is encouraging as it shows that the leaders of the most highly polluting nations understand the importance of a fast reduction of greenhouse gas emissions
HFCs are included in the short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) which, when compared to the long living CO2, can give a rapid cooling effect necessary to slow the worst effects of climate change.
Back in June, the U.S. and China first formally agreed to use the expertise and institutions of the Montreal Protocol of 1987 to phase down the consumption and production of HFCs. This could eliminate 90 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (or two years’ worth) by 2050. John Podesta, chair of the Center for American Progress and former White House chief of staff spoke about the importance of this next step:
Today, this initiative has become a reality, with the two leaders pushing to initiate the formal process of using the Montreal Protocol to achieve this end. Their first opportunity will come this October when the parties of the protocol convene in Bangkok. This is the same agreement that successfully phased out chlorofluorocarbons, saving the world from the threat of the hole in the ozone layer. It must now be used to eliminate HFCs, which, if left unabated, are projected to increase twenty-fold in the next three decades, comparable to the total current annual emissions from the global transportation sector.In my view, this is a small but important step which creates the potential for more cooperation on climate change between the major industrialized nations.