U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) on Saturday applauded the landmark international agreement to amend the Montreal Protocol to phase down hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), a powerful planet-warming chemical used in air-conditioners and refrigerators. The HFCs prevented from entering the atmosphere in this deal is equivalent to 70 billion tons of carbon dioxide. Murphy, along with U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine), is the author of the Super Pollutants Act of 2015 – the Senate’s only bipartisan bill to combat climate change – which would reduce short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) like HFCs in the atmosphere by enabling federal agencies to work with the business and non-profit communities to speed the adoption of SLCP-reducing technologies and policies, while supporting American-led innovations. In their bill, the senators called for strong U.S. leadership to amend the Montreal Protocol to include HFCs.
“This deal represents the single most ambitious and concrete step we can take to deal with the immediate threats of climate change. With specific targets and timetables to achieve pollutant reductions, the amended Protocol is a set of binding obligations that will move the needle on climate change in the near-term,” said Murphy. “Coupled with the Paris Agreement and the recent International Civil Aviation Organization agreement to curb emissions in aviation, we have created an extraordinary three-pronged attack to deal with climate change on a global scale, and we have a more sustainable path for the future of our planet because of it.”
Earlier this month, Murphy urged Secretary of State John Kerry and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy to take a strong position to rapidly phase down the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) in the upcoming negotiations at the 28th Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol in Kigali, Rwanda. The Montreal Protocol, which has successfully phased out nearly 100 harmful chemicals, is the only treaty that is signed by all 197 countries of the United Nations.
HFCs — chemicals commonly used for refrigeration, air conditioning, and aerosol propellants—are super pollutants hundreds to tens of thousands times more potent greenhouse gases than carbon dioxide, and the increase in the use of HFCs since 1990 poses a serious climate threat. Significantly reducing the use of HFCs could avoid warming up to 0.5 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, a critical step toward the goals of last year’s international agreement in Paris.
While super pollutants represent only a small percentage of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, they are responsible for an increasing share of global warming. Studies show that reducing them in the atmosphere could cut the rate of sea level rise by 25 percent, almost halve the rate of temperature rise, prevent two million premature deaths each year, and avoid crop losses of over 30 million tons annually.