CHINA: China has stated that it will cut emissions of hydrofluorocarbon refrigerants by 280 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) – similar to the annual carbon footprint of Spain.
“This sends a strong signal to HFC producers and consumers around the world to speed up their efforts to get out of HFCs and into climate friendly alternatives,” said Durwood Zaelke of the US-based Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development, which monitors efforts to phase out the climate-changing chemicals.
The announcement from China has been welcomed around the world after China’s chemicals industry – the world’s biggest producer of HFCs – has for the past decade lobbied against curbs after making huge profits.
It has also come at a time when it has also been reported that without action to cut back HFCs, by 2050, emissions from the gases could be equivalent to 12% of annual CO2 emissions under a business-as-usual scenario, and up to 75% of annual greenhouse gas emissions if countries make big cuts to energy-related CO2.
Natasha Hurley, a campaigner with the Environmental Investigation Agency, said, “There doesn’t appear to be too much information about longer term targets on cutting emissions from HFCs, but I’d expect the reductions to be deeper over time.”
Campaigners have said up to 200 billion tonnes of CO2e could be prevented from being pumped into the atmosphere if a fast phase down of HFCs by 2020 under the 1987 Montreal Protocol was undertaken
China’s target to cut CO2 emissions from the HFC production follows a deal signed between President Obama and President Xi Jinping last year, including a formal agreement to use the Montreal Protocol, rather than the Kyoto Protocol, to cut the production and use of the chemicals.
At the G7 summit in Brussels on Thursday, leaders reaffirmed their support for global efforts to cut emissions from HFCs.
“We will also continue to take action to promote the rapid deployment of climate-friendly and safe alternatives in motor vehicle air-conditioning and we will promote public procurement of climate-friendly HFC alternatives,” G7 leaders said in a joint statement.
China’s government has also secured international funding to help domestic chemical makers switch to less carbon-intensive compounds, such as HFOs.
Yet green groups warn that HFOs generate toxic by-products, urging manufacturers of fridges and air conditioning units to use ‘natural’ refrigerant chemicals instead, such as ammonia or carbon dioxide.