U.S., China and G-20 Countries Agree to Regulate HFCs

On Friday, key members of the international community agreed to regulate hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs)—considered to be the super greenhouse gas. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping had previously agreed to adopt the HFC guidelines put forth by the Montreal Protocol of 1987, but Friday’s announcement from the G20 represents more significant progress in the regulation of HFCs, as India, Brazil and Saudi Arabia—among other countries—are now officially onboard. The countries in agreement are responsible for 80% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Found in almost every refrigerator and air conditioner, HFCs have thankfully taken the place of ozone-depleting refrigerants; however, they are still among the most potent greenhouse gases. Most HFCs are thousands of times more potent than carbon dioxide. Currently, HFCs only account for about 2% of greenhouse gas emissions. That number is expected to rise to 20% by 2050. The new agreement has the potential to eliminate 90 billion tons of carbon dioxide by 2050.

Former White House chief of staff John Podesta reflected on the news. “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.”

Adhering to the guidelines set forth in the Montreal Protocol is a significant step in the right direction, the U.S. and China are looking to ensure an even bolder commitment to regulate HFCs. The two countries have agreed to form a contact group, the first step in adopting an Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, requiring stricter regulation of HFCs. Their proposal to amend the Montreal Protocol is facing strong opposition from India and Brazil, in particular.

Earth Day Network commends the U.S., China and other G20 countries on their efforts to control HFC consumption and production. HFCs pose a significant threat to our climate. By virtue of the fact that they only remain in the atmosphere for about 15 years, regulating them could have an almost immediate positive effect on the climate crisis, preventing half a degree Celsius of warming by the end of the century.