Today President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping announced an agreement to reduce emissions of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which are extremely potent greenhouse gases.
"The agreement with China to address HFCs is a tremendous accomplishment for the President and his diplomatic team, and a big step forward on climate," said Rep. Henry A. Waxman, Ranking Member of the Committee on Energy and Commerce. "The United States and China working together to tackle climate change is a major breakthrough. A global phase-down of HFCs would eliminate more heat-trapping gases by 2050 than the United States emits in an entire decade."
HFCs are synthetic chemicals used primarily as refrigerants and insulating foams. They were developed as substitutes for chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), which deplete the stratospheric ozone layer. The most common types of HFCs are more than a thousand times as potent as carbon dioxide in warming the planet. Though HFCs represent around 2% of current greenhouse gas emissions, they are projected to become a much larger contributor to the problem in the coming years. HFCs are the fastest growing greenhouse gas in the U.S. with annual emissions increases of 8% to 9%. Scientists predict that if emissions of HFCs continue to grow, they could be responsible for 20% or more of the global atmospheric warming by 2050.
This year, the United States joined Mexico and Canada in proposing an amendment to the Montreal Protocol to phase down the production and use of HFCs. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the HFC phase-down could reduce global emissions by over 84 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent through 2050. That is equal to more than twelve years of total U.S. heat-trapping emissions.