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Obama, Xi Climate Agreement Opens Door to Paris Success in 2015


World’s top two climate polluters agree on fast action to cut short and long-lived emissions

"President Obama's historic agreement today with President Xi in China is the kind of bold action needed to reinvigorate the world's efforts to slow and eventually reverse climate pollution before the most severe climate impacts become irreversible", said Durwood Zaelke, president of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development, a global think tank."President Obama might just save the world from the worst of climate impacts with his leadership on climate protection."

The US-China agreement has the three key elements for setting the planet on the path to climate safety: fast action to cut short-lived climate pollutants, starting with hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), fast action to cut carbon dioxide emissions, the main long-lived climate pollutant, and the beginning of action to manage carbon dioxide after it has been emitted, through an ambitious plan to develop carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS), for example by capturing carbon dioxide at the smoke stack and turning it into cement-like building material.

President Obama understands the need to build political momentum at the global level to bring out the ‘A game’ of the other large emitters, and this agreement between the number one and number two leading climate polluters will do that. The president's leadership started at home, which gave him the renewed credibility needed to return to the global stage.

For the past two years President Obama has been leading the global effort to control HFCs under the Montreal Protocol, the world's most successful climate treaty. US-China cooperation has been the cornerstone of the President Obama's efforts, starting with the first meeting between the two leaders in Sunnylands, California in June of last year, which resulted in agreement to work together to reduce HFCs, and to cooperate on North Korea.

The leadership on the HFC amendment by President Obama and President Xi sets the stage to conclude the biggest, fastest piece of climate mitigation available to the world in the near-term by phasing down HFCs under the Montreal Protocol. There is growing enthusiasm this can be done in advance of the UN climate negotiations in Paris next December, where UN negotiators aim to conclude a broad-based global climate agreement. Controlling HFCs can provide ten to twelve percent of the climate mitigation the world needs to keep the climate within safe bounds. The total climate mitigation is significantly more when benefits are included from improving the energy efficiency of the air conditioners and other appliances that use HFCs, as this cuts CO2 emissions from power plants.

"President Obama understands that the road to Paris now goes through Montreal", Zaelke said.

The annual meeting of the parties to the Montreal Protocol is next week in Paris.

FACT SHEET: U.S.-China Joint Announcement on Climate Change and Clean Energy Cooperation is here.

Huffington Post Blog is here.

IGSD’s Primer on Hydrofluorocarbons is here.