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United States & China Reach Agreement on HFC Phase Down

On June 8th, 2013 The White House announced that President Obama and President Xi of China agreed on an important new step to confront global climate change. Under the agreement the U.S. and China will work together, and with other countries, to use the expertise and institutions of the Montreal Protocol to phase down the consumption and production of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).

HFCs are potent greenhouse gases used in refrigeration, fire suppression and other industrial applications. Their use is growing rapidly as replacements for ozone-depleting substances, such as Halon 1301, that are being phased out under the Montreal Protocol. Every country in the world is a party to the Montreal 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 transition from the use of these ozone depleting substances has left the unintended consequence of the rapid current and projected future growth of climate-damaging HFCs.

The phase-out of HFCs under the Montreal Protocol was first proposed in 2009 and was opposed by China, India and Brazil. However, according to an article published by Reuters, experts have supported addressing HFCs under the Montreal Protocol because it can lead to major emissions reductions while negotiators continue to work out the details of a new climate treaty by 2015. This new agreement is being regarded as a "political breakthrough" and the "beginning of a movement" and an example of what can be done when two major powers work together.

The White House has said that a global phase down of HFCs could potentially reduce up to 90 gigatons of CO2 equivalent by 2050, equal to roughly two years worth of current global greenhouse gas emissions.

While experts expect that a global deal will require significant time, the discussions and negotiations will continue to progress at events like the diplomatic gathering on the Montreal Protocol the week of June 24th in Bangkok and at the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue in July.

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