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G20 Takes Landmark Step in Fight Against Super Greenhouse Gases

The 20 biggest world economies have agreed to use the resources of the Montreal Protocol to initiate a global phase-down of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), a significant group of super greenhouse gases (GHGs).

According to The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), HFCs are primarily used in refrigeration and air conditioning and are thousands of times more potent than carbon dioxide. However, climate-friendly alternatives are already widely available.

"Given the international community's success in effectively and rapidly phasing out ozone-depleting chemicals, we are encouraged that the world's largest economies have agreed to phase-down HFCs under the Montreal Protocol," said Mark W. Roberts, EIA's Senior Counsel and International Policy Advisor. "We strongly urge the rest of the world to join the members of the G20."

For the past five years, Micronesia, the United States, Canada and Mexico have continually put forward amendments to phase-down HFCs under the Montreal Protocol, EIA says. Global action has stalled due to countries disagreeing over whether a phase-down should occur under the Montreal Protocol or the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The G20 statement resolves this debate by asserting that the phase-down of the consumption and production of HFCs will take place under the Montreal Protocol, while the emission reductions will be accounted for under the UNFCCC.

"Phasing out HFCs is the fastest, most cost-effective climate mitigation measure available and joint global action on HFCs will set an example of how the nations of the world can come together to solve the problem of climate change," said Clare Perry, EIA's Senior Campaigner.

In addition to the statement by the G20 leaders, the United States and China reaffirmed their June 8, 2013 agreement on HFCs and "emphasize[d] 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."

Last month, Google took its own stand against greenhouse gas emissions, reporting that it emitted 1.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2012, a 9 percent decrease from the year before. The search giant says it used new reporting guidance from the Carbon Disclosure Project to buy carbon offsets to reduce its 2012 footprint to zero. Google also claims it has been carbon neutral for six years running.

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