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US and China agree to limit HFC greenhouse gases, setting global warming back by two years

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Arctic sea ice by NOAA
Arctic sea ice by NOAA

On Saturday, President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping made a public pledge to scale back production of HFCs (Hydrochlorofluorocarbons), especially potent greenhouse gases used in refrigerators, air conditioners and insulating foam. According to the White House, the proposed phasedown would have an effect equivalent to removing 90 gigatons of CO2, or two years worth of emissions.

The agreement comes amid ongoing talks between the two nations, and ongoing greenhouse pressure from the multilateral Montreal Protocol. In April, China promised to end HFC production by 2030 to meet the terms for a $385 million assistance package from other Montreal nations, but these latest talks see a newly active role from the China and the U.S., the top two producers of HFCs worldwide.

The new accord is especially unexpected given the recent tension between the two nations over recent cyber attacks, including the revelation that China had eavesdropped on private presidential campaign emails in 2008. But despite the tension, climate action seems to have given the countries a rare piece of common ground.