The top climate priority of President Obama to use the Montreal Protocol to phase down HFCs became much more likely in the early hours of Sunday, when almost all parties converged on a narrower set of options on key issues as they concluded their extraordinary meeting in Vienna.
Today President Obama, Prime Minister Trudeau, and President Pena Nieto agreed to an aggressive double-barreled climate strategy, committing to cut both carbon dioxide, by moving to 50% clean energy sources by 2025, and the short-lived super pollutants.
Three years ago this month, President Obama began to redouble his already substantial efforts to address climate change. Since then he’s emerged as perhaps the most consequential climate leader in the world. His actions hold critical lessons for other leaders around the world, not least his successor in the Oval Office.
As countries boom in wealth and population, and extend electricity to more people even as the climate warms, the projections are clear: They are going to install mind-boggling amounts of air conditioning, not just for comfort but as a health necessity.
The May 27th G7 leaders’ declaration committed for the first time to cutting near-term warming by phasing down short-lived super pollutants black carbon, methane, and HFCs. The leaders also committed to amending the Montreal Protocol in 2016 to phase down HFCs.
The Paris climate agreement that nearly 200 nations signed on Friday is important, but it’s not enough. Speed matters in climate protection. Immediate action to cut four “super pollutants” could make the difference between a reasonably safe climate and one that carries staggering human and financial costs.
In the first test of post-Paris climate mitigation, Parties to the Montreal Protocol made significant progress last week to eliminate warming from super greenhouse gases known as hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, used primarily as refrigerants in air conditioners and other equipment. HFCs are one of the six main greenhouse gases.
The need for urgent, concerted action cannot be emphasized enough. Any delay will cause negative consequences to continue to accumulate. This will not only cause tremendous suffering, especially to the world’s most vulnerable people; it will reverberate for decades to come, making the key goal of keeping the increase in global temperature below 2º Celsius (relative to pre-industrial levels) increasingly costly.
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