EPA chief: US, negotiators nearing new emissions deal

EPA chief: US, negotiators nearing new emissions deal

International officials, including the head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), say they’re nearing a deal to reduce the use of a refrigerant chemical and potent greenhouse gas. 

During a round of meetings in Vienna on Thursday, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthyRegina (Gina) McCarthyLawmakers rally to keep Pruitt from transparently restricting science EPA says it abandoned plan for office in Pruitt’s hometown Overnight Energy: Pruitt blames staff for controversies | Ex-Obama official to head new Harvard climate center | Electric vehicles on road expected to triple MORE said negotiators are closing in on an international agreement to reduce the production and use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). 

HFCs, used in air conditioning and refrigeration, have climate change potential far greater than carbon dioxide. Officials say an agreement to reduce the use of HFCs — something McCarthy said Thursday is “a huge loophole right now, frankly, in the international effort to address climate change” — would help prevent 0.5 degrees Celsius of warming around the globe by 2100. 

“We are seeing all countries coming into this meeting with an incredibly positive and collaborative energy level,” McCarthy said at a press conference Thursday morning. “There is no country that appears to be standing on the sideline in this discussion.”

Officials are meeting in Vienna to craft an HFC amendment to the Montreal Protocol, an international agreement to protect the ozone layer. 

McCarthy and her counterparts from Canada and Mexico said they at the point in negotiations were they’re writing the actual text of the HFC amendment right now. Negotiators still need to determine the “ambition” of the HFC goals, McCarthy said, as well as issues like funding and support for smaller nations involved in the agreement.

Reaching an HFC deal is one of McCarthy's major outstanding goals at the EPA before President Obama leaves office next January. She said Thursday a final agreement could come as soon as this weekend. 

“We have every intention of wrapping it up in 2016, whether it’s here in Vienna or later on in Kigali,” Rwanda in October, she said.