Monday, June 10, 2013

President's Agreement With China On Advancing HFCs Control

Jun 8: President Obama and China's President Xi Jinping agreed on an important new step to confront global climate change. For the first time, the United States 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), among other forms of multilateral cooperation. A global phase down of HFCs could potentially reduce some 90 gigatons of CO2 equivalent by 2050, equal to roughly two years worth of current global greenhouse gas emissions.
    According to a release from the White House, the agreement between the United States and China indicates, "Regarding HFCs, the United States and China agreed to work together and with other countries through multilateral approaches that include using the expertise and institutions of the Montreal Protocol to phase down the production and consumption of HFCs, while continuing to include HFCs within the scope of UNFCCC and its Kyoto Protocol provisions for accounting and reporting of emissions."
    HFCs are potent greenhouse gases used in refrigerators, air conditioners, and industrial applications. While they do not deplete the ozone layer, many are highly potent greenhouse gases. Their use is growing rapidly as replacements for ozone-depleting substances that are being phased out under the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. Left unabated, HFC emissions growth could grow to nearly 20 percent of carbon dioxide emissions by 2050, a serious climate mitigation concern.

    The Montreal Protocol was established in 1987 to facilitate a global approach to combat depletion of the stratospheric ozone layer. Every country in the world is a party to the 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 transitions out of CFCs and HCFCs provide major ozone layer protection benefits, but the unintended consequence is the rapid current and projected future growth of climate-damaging HFCs.

    For the past four years, the United States, Canada, and Mexico have proposed an amendment to the Montreal Protocol to phase down the production and consumption of HFCs. The amendment would gradually reduce consumption and production and control byproduct emissions of HFCs in all countries, and require reporting in these areas. The amendment includes a financial assistance component for countries that can already access the Protocol's Multilateral Fund, and leaves unchanged the reporting and accounting provisions of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and Kyoto Protocol on HFC emissions.

    President Obama commented at a press briefing, following the bilateral meeting at Sunnylands Retreat in Rancho Mirage, CA, ". . . for example, neither country by itself can deal with the challenge of climate change. That's an issue that we'll have to deal with together. China as the largest country, as it continues to develop, will be a larger and larger carbon emitter unless we find new mechanisms for green growth. The United States, we have the largest carbon footprint per capita in the world; we've got to bring down our carbon levels in order to accommodate continued growth. And so that will translate then into opportunities for specific work around green technologies and research and development, and interactions between our scientists so that we can, together, help advance the goal of a sustainable planet, even as we continue to grow and develop."

    In June 2012, EPA release a 23-page document entitled, "Benefits of Addressing HFCs under the Montreal Protocol." According to the document, "Although safe for the ozone layer, the continued emissions of HFCs -- primarily as alternatives to ODS but also from the continued production of HCFC-22 -- will have an immediate and significant effect on the Earth's climate system. Without further controls, it is predicted that HFC emissions could negate the entire climate benefits achieved under the Montreal Protocol. HFCs are rapidly increasing in the atmosphere. HFC use is forecast to grow, mostly due to increased demand for refrigeration and air conditioning, particularly in Article 5 countries. There is a clear connection to the Montreal Protocol's CFC and HCFC phaseout and the increased use of HFCs. However, it is possible to maintain the climate benefits achieved by the Montreal Protocol by using climate-friendly alternatives and addressing HFC consumption.
    "Recognizing the concerns with continued HFC consumption and emissions, the actions taken to date to address them, the need for continued HFC use in the near future for certain applications, and the need for better alternatives, Canada, Mexico and the United States have proposed an amendment to phase down HFC consumption and to reduce byproduct emissions of HFC-23, the HFC with the highest GWP. The proposed Amendment would build on the success of the Montreal Protocol, rely on the strength of its institutions, and realize climate benefits in both the near and long-term."
    Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) welcomed the announcement by the Unites States and Chinese Heads of State regarding HFCs. He said, "The signal from [President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping] is important as both a confidence builder and if it paves the way to a universal agreement involving all nations that reflects the science of where all emissions are today and where they need to be by a series of deadlines beginning with 2020. The announcement could signal a new and perhaps transformational chapter in international cooperation on climate change. It is widely recognized that securing a meaningful treaty and keeping an average global temperature rise under 2 degrees C this century will require all hands on deck -- what, however, must not be overlooked or sidelined is the urgency to also tackle the principal greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, as part of negotiations underway under the UN Climate Convention."
    Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA), Ranking Member of the Committee on Energy and Commerce issued a release stating, "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. 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." According to the release, the four co-chairs of the Bicameral Task Force on Climate Change -- Rep. Waxman, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA), and Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) -- wrote President Obama on June 5 to urge him to seek the support of Chinese President Xi Jinping for the U.S. proposal. 
    Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) President Fred Krupp issued a statement on the agreement saying, "This is a significant step forward for the two nations that are the largest emitters of greenhouses gases. It's the kind of international cooperation we'll need to drive a comprehensive solution. Climate change will have huge economic costs on both sides of the Pacific, and the solutions to climate change – like leadership on clean energy technologies – offer enormous economic benefits. These two leaders know it is in their national interests to move forward. The two presidents met in California, home of the most ambitious climate law in the United States. They agreed to '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), potent man-made greenhouse gases used in air conditioning and refrigeration. A recent report from the World Resources Institute concluded that, '[e]liminating HFCs represents the biggest opportunity for GHG emissions reductions' other than power plants in the United States. The U.S. and China are the two biggest players in the international climate arena, and the fact that they're talking about cooperation is a pretty big deal. It's only one step forward, but a very positive one."
    Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said, "There are two big reasons to be hopeful about this important agreement between the United States and China. First, this is a significant step in curbing the use of a climate-disrupting pollutant that was only expected to skyrocket. Second, this is a clear sign that when President Obama meets with leaders of the world's largest economies, our climate crisis is at the top of the agenda. If we do not act to confront the climate crisis, our economies, our families, and our future are at risk. The extreme weather that has devastated our nation and our planet in recent months should serve as a wake-up call for our leaders. The fact that this agreement was one of the first things announced following this important meeting between President Obama and President Xi is an indicator they are hearing the ringing alarm."

    Access a release from the White House on the Agreement (click here). Access the comments of the President and President Xi at the press briefing (click here). Access a press briefing by National Security Advisor Tom Donilon on the U.S. - China meeting with mention of the HFC agreement (click here). Access the EPA 2012 document (click here). Access an overview and link to a summary and the full text of the 2013 North American Amendment Proposal to Address HFCs under the Montreal Protocol (click here). Access a release from UNEP (click here). Access a release from Rep. Waxman and link to the letter to the President (click here). Access the statement from EDF (click here). Access a release from Sierra Club (click here). [#Climate]

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