News Brief

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.

Graphing the Proposed HFC Phase-Down

With China’s backing, the U.S. will propose an amendment to the Montreal Protocol that calls for a phased reduction of HFCs. Developing countries (depicted by the red A5 line) would be responsible for less immediate reductions, but by 2043 all signatories would be required to cut HFC emissions by 85% from a baseline measured in 2010. Requirements for reporting are included in the Amendment.

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 “Avoiding the Global Warming Impact of Insulation”). Even though small amounts are released gradually from air conditioners, refrigerators, fire-suppression equipment, and insulation, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has warned 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 proposed amendment calls 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, according to John Podesta, chair of the Center for American Progress.

For more information:

The White House, Office of the Press

Published June 27, 2013

Pearson, C. (2013, June 27). U.S. and China to Cut Climate Impact of Air Conditioners. Retrieved from

Add new comment

To post a comment, you need to register for a BuildingGreen Basic membership (free) or login to your existing profile.