Events and speculation about the civil war in Syria almost totally eclipsed news of a positive international climate decision during the recent summit meeting of the Group of 20. Top finance policymakers from 20 major nations that create about 80% of both production and world trade and comprise two-thirds of the global population make up this executive group. Many heads of state, including President Obama, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Chinese President Xi Jinping, also attended, reinforcing the importance of the gathering.
Every single G20 nation pledged at the early September meeting to reduce manufacture and use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). These greenhouse gases more potent than carbon dioxide are used in refrigerators, air conditioning, and industrial machinery. The change will spare earth's atmosphere the carbon dioxide equivalent of 90 gigatons, about two years’ worth of the world’s current output, by 2050.
The G20 nations will implement the new policy using the Montreal Protocol of 1987. This successful treaty limited worldwide production of chlorofluorocarbons, which were previously used in refrigeration and also harmed the earth's ozone layer.
The Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme applauded the G20's action: “The leaders of the G20 group of nations have provided another positive signal towards the goal of realizing a universal climate agreement by 2015 under the UN climate convention and the ultimate aim of sharply bringing down greenhouse gas emissions in line with the scientific imperative.”
Representing the two top-polluting nations and building on their bilateral discussions in June, President Obama and China's President Xi announced a separate pledge to establish an HFC contact group together. At the previous international summit, China passed on HFC discussions. The new group will work on practical ways to reduce the use of these gases, as well as stressing safety and environmental issues.
Award-winning science writer Sandy Dechert covers environmental, health, and energy policy and issues. She has reported extensively on climate change and extreme weather disasters, including superstorm Sandy, the 2012-2013 drought, and the massive summer wildfires of the past decade. She also detailed events and policy at last fall's 18th UN climate change summit meeting in Doha, Qatar and has covered the progress of the Obama administration in this area.
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