Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development

Obama, Xi can secure critical climate victory this week Leadership by two presidents would ensure successful HFC phase down; Montreal Protocol victory would produce fast climate protection

Washington, D.C., 6 June 2013 – President Obama and President Xi have the opportunity when they meet tomorrow and Saturday to secure the biggest climate victory available before 2020 by agreeing to phase down HFCs under the Montreal Protocol. In a letter sent yesterday, the Bicameral Climate Change Task Force from the U.S. Congress urged President Obama to pursue a Montreal Protocol victory during his meeting with China’s new President in Rancho Mirage California.

“Leadership from both presidents would ensure a Montreal Protocol victory on HFCs,” said Durwood Zaelke, President of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development.

Phasing down HFCs will prevent the equivalent of 100 billion tons of carbon dioxide, providing about ten times more climate protection than the UN climate treaty has provided so far. This will avoid a half a degree Celsius of warming by the end of the century, a significant part of what is needed to keep warming from exceeding the two degree Celsius red-line.

“A victory on HFCs would build the sense of urgent optimism needed for further cooperation on climate protection, including under the UN climate discussions,” Zaelke added. “A Montreal Protocol victory on HFCs would build the on-ramp for victory with the other short-lived climate pollutants, as well as with long-lived carbon dioxide.”

In addition to HFCs, the short-lived climate pollutants include methane (the primary component of natural gas), lower- level ozone, which also damages health and crops, and black carbon soot, which kills an estimated six million people a year, mostly in developing countries, as well as being one of the most potent climate pollutants.

The four short-lived pollutants are naturally cleared out of the atmosphere in days to a decade or so, compared to carbon dioxide from fossil fuels, a major part of which remains in the atmosphere and causes warming for thousands of years. The latest scientific research calculates that reducing the short-lived climate pollutants can avoid six times more warming by 2050 as reductions of carbon dioxide, and a bit more than carbon dioxide even by 2100.

The Montreal Protocol has already phased out nearly 100 chemicals similar to HFCs by nearly 100%, as measured in the atmosphere. It has never failed to do its assigned job. It will cost an estimated ten cents for the equivalent of a ton of carbon dioxide. More than 100 countries are already showing support for reducing HFCs.

In a related development, yesterday UK Energy & Climate Change Minister Greg Barker announced at the Consumer Goods Forum the formation of a retail refrigeration task force and called on retailers to freeze the use of HFCs. The Consumer Goods Forum is a global network of several hundred retailers, manufacturers, service providers, and other stakeholders from over 70 countries whose members have agreed to begin phasing out HFC refrigerants beginning in 2015.

The Bicameral Climate Change Task Force letter is here.

An Op-Ed by Durwood Zaelke & Paul Bledsoe, “A climate victory waiting for presidents Obama and Xi”, is here. Coverage of the CGF Forum is here.