This is kind of a big deal: The White House just announced that the US and China have agreed to work together to phase down both the production and consumption of hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs—super greenhouse gases that are used in air conditioning and refrigeration. HFCs themselves were used to replace the ozone-depleting substances that were phased out under the Montreal Protocol.
The agreement states that the two nations aim to "phase down the production and consumption of HFCs, while continuing to include HFCs within the scope of UNFCCC and its Kyoto Protocol provisions for accounting and reporting of emissions."
The White House touts the fact that a global phase down of HFCs could, by 2050, eliminate the emissions of the equivalent of 90 gigatons of CO2. Current annual global emissions of CO2 now stand at a new record high of 31.6 gigatons.
Commenting on the news, World Resources Institute president Andrew Steer called this a "significant breakthrough." He notes that:
This announcement should provide a major boost for countries seeking to make progress on the Montreal Protocol, as well as for negotiations in Bonn, Germany, working on the details of an international climate agreement by 2015. A recent proposal found that reducing HFCs under the Montreal Protocol could cut global emissions by 16.5 billion metric tons of CO2 equivalent through 2030.
Recent research has shown that cutting back on short-lived climate pollutants such as HFCs could slow sea level rise roughly 30% by 2100, due to reductions in global average temperature rise. Doing so could also reduce warming in the Arctic by two-thirds by 2030.
Though unfortunately there aren't any specific details regarding timetables, targets or anything binding here, just the fact that the US and China are agreeing to work together to do anything to slow climate change seems like a big deal these days. Should HFCs really get phased out entirely, it would be greatly helpful in slowing climate change, if not enough to stop it.