China’s Shifting Stance on Hydrofluorocarbons
This past weekend the White House announced the signing of a new agreement between the United States and China on hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, which are highly potent greenhouse gases commonly used in air-conditioning units and refrigerators.
This new agreement is very big news. If the United States and China can work together to phase down the production and use of HFCs, that could eliminate the equivalent of 90 billion tons of carbon dioxide by 2050 and avoid half a degree Celsius of warming by the end of the century. This is critically important given that the global goal now is to limit temperature increase caused by humans at 2 degrees Celsius and we have already warmed the planet almost 1 degree Celsius.
The real story behind China’s pivot on HFCs is much bigger than what has been reported in the press surrounding the Sunnylands summit. While the United States has been pushing this issue within the Montreal Protocol over the past few years, major financial and political struggles have been underway in China, and a shift in those struggles is what allowed for this new U.S.-China HFC agreement.
This issue brief will provide the backstory behind China’s new willingness to work with the United States on phasing down HFCs and highlight some of the pitfalls we may face as this important new initiative moves forward.
Photocredit: Official White House Photo by Pete Souza