US and China, on G-20 sidelines, claim climate progress

President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping made progress Friday on joint work to help cut global use of potent greenhouse gases called hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), the White House said.

The two leaders met on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Saint Petersburg, Russia, and discussion included the next steps in the HFCs work they initially launched when Xi met with Obama in California in June.

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They plan to work under the 1987 Montreal Protocol, the the international ozone protection treaty. “Today, they agreed to move forward under the basis of the Montreal Protocol to phase out HFCs and to work to make progress on a multilateral basis,” deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters.

The 1987 treaty helped phase out use of chemicals that deplete the ozone layer, but one side effect was to increase use of HFCs as a substitute. HFCs are used in refrigerators, air conditioners and other applications.

The White House, in a statement Friday, offered a bit more on the plan to work under the existing 1987 treaty.

“President Obama and President Xi agreed at their bilateral meeting as a next step to establish a contact group under the Montreal Protocol on HFCs to consider issues related to cost-effectiveness, financial and technology support, safety, environmental benefits, and an amendment to the Montreal Protocol,” the White House said.

Here’s the joint statement from Obama and Xi Friday:

We reaffirm our announcement on June 8, 2013 that the United States and China agreed to work together and with other countries through multilateral approaches that include using the expertise and institutions of the Montreal Protocol to phase down the production and consumption of HFCs, while continuing to include HFCs within the scope of UNFCCC and its Kyoto Protocol provisions for accounting and reporting of emissions.  We emphasize the importance of the Montreal Protocol, including as a next step through the establishment of an open-ended contact group to consider all relevant issues, including financial and technology support to Article 5 developing countries, cost effectiveness, safety of substitutes, environmental benefits, and an amendment.  We reiterate our firm commitment to work together and with other countries to agree on a multilateral solution.

UPDATE: The G-20 members as a whole, in their joint leaders' statement released Friday, endorsed wider multilateral efforts on HFCs.

— This post was updated at 11:47 a.m.