U.S. and China to Cut Climate Impact of Air Conditioners
The two biggest contributors of HFC emissions agree to a phase-down to mitigate global warming.Using the Montreal Protocol framework, President Obama and his Chinese counterpart President Xi have agreed to advance anti-climate-change measures by reducing production and consumption of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).
The leaders agreed to amend the 1987 Montreal Protocol, which successfully decreased ozone-depleting CFC refrigerants and blowing agents but led to the widespread use of HFCs as an alternative—a chemical scientists now know has global warming potential thousands of times greater than that of CO2 (see “”). Even though small amounts are released gradually from air conditioners, refrigerators, fire-suppression equipment, and insulation, the that HFC emissions could account for as much as 19% of global greenhouse gas emissions by 2050—due in large part to increased demand for air conditioning.
With the support of China, the U.S. plans to propose a Montreal Protocol amendment it co-drafted with Canada and Mexico at the 2013 meeting of signatories. The proposedcalls for a phased reduction plan in which participating countries decrease HFC emissions gradually in the coming years—70% by 2029 (60% for countries receiving financial assistance under the Protocol’s Multilateral Fund). Corresponding U.S. policy would be implemented through the Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) program, which would encourage the use of alternative chemicals such as low-GWP blends and hydrocarbons.
If countries such as Brazil and India follow in the U.S. and China’s footsteps and the amendment is globally adopted, it would be possible to avoid emissions equivalent to 90 gigatons of CO2 by 2050 and prevent a temperature increase of 0.5 degrees Celsius by the end of the century,, chair of the Center for American Progress.
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Published June 27, 2013