By Zack Colman - 06/05/13 04:25 PM EDT
HFCs are used in refrigeration and air conditioning. They stay in the atmosphere for a shorter period of time than carbon dioxide but are more effective at trapping heat.
The lawmakers want Obama to coax Xi into supporting an amendment to the Montreal Protocol — an international treaty to protect the ozone — sponsored by the U.S., Mexico and Canada that would call for reducing HFCs. The proposal is on the agenda of an international climate conference in October.
Tackling HFCs would represent a more measured approach for securing Chinese action on emissions, as the nation has proven reluctant to sign onto international greenhouse gas reduction agreements.
China has explained such commitments would stunt its economic development and prevent millions from climbing out of poverty.
As a result, many U.S. lawmakers have resisted climate agreements, saying that it would be unwise to handcuff domestic firms when foreign competitors have no such restrictions.
But the Democratic lawmakers said China and the U.S., the world’s top greenhouse gas emitters, have a responsibility to more aggressively smother pollution.
They noted that the “window for preventing irreversible harm is rapidly closing” when it comes to climate change. That alluded to a goal set by industrial nations in 2009 to keep global temperatures from rising 2 C by 2020 — though many scientists now feel avoiding that scenario is unlikely.
“Cooperation with China is essential if we are to avoid catastrophic climate change. Both countries are independently taking initial steps to address carbon pollution and have established a bilateral working group on climate change, but negotiating an ambitious global climate agreement in 2015 remains crucial,” the Democrats wrote.