US and China working to reduce potent heat-trapping pollutant

The White House announced on Saturday that President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping have forged an agreement to reduce the use of a short-lived, but highly potent heat-trapping pollutant.

The two countries said they would work together to pare down the production and consumption of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), often used in refrigerators, air conditioners and other household and industrial products.

“A global phase down of HFCs could potentially reduce some 90 gigatons of [carbon dioxide] equivalent by 2050, equal to roughly two years worth of current global greenhouse gas emissions,” the White House said in a release.

Congressional Democrats wrote to Obama last week, urging him to address climate issues while meeting with China’s president, specifically mentioning HFCs.

“We encourage you to raise HFCs with President Xi and to ask for his support of the North American HFC proposal,” the letter reads. “This would send a powerful and concrete message about the ability of United States and China to cooperate to address the enormous challenge of climate change.”

Countries worldwide have either begun a drawdown of similar chemicals, known as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), but there has been an increase in the use of HFCs as a substitute.

“Left unabated, HFC emissions growth could grow to nearly 20 percent of carbon dioxide emissions by 2050, a serious climate mitigation concern,” the White House says.

China has previously said that agreeing to any climate agreements could stint the country’s economic development.