Leaders attending the St Petersburg G20 summit earlier this month agreed to phase down the use of HFCs. While the decision received little press coverage it represents a big step for global climate policymaking.
HFCs (hydrofluorocarbons) are thousands of times more potent than carbon dioxide. The settlement aims to phase down both production and consumption of these dangerous pollutants. HFCs are in use worldwide as refrigerants despite the fact that safe and affordable alternatives now exist.
It has been estimated that getting rid of HFCs would reduce GHG emissions by an equivalent of 100 billion tonnes by 2050. In turn this reduction would prevent global warming of 0.5 degrees Celsius by 2100. While governments battle to reduce CO2 emissions, eliminating the production and use of HFCs is a quick and relatively cheap climate solution.
China and the U.S. agreed earlier in the year to cooperate in addressing climate change. The proposal made by the 2 global giants is to amend an agreement called the 1987 Montreal Protocol to cover HFCs. The Montreal Protocol is an international treaty established to target the production of substances known to affect the ozone layer. The amendment will be discussed when the protocol meets in Bangkok in October.