(Adds comments from White House official, environmental group)
RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif., June 8 U.S. President
Barack Obama and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, agreed on
Saturday to cooperate in fighting climate change by cutting the
use of hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, the White House said a
"The United States and China will work together and with
other countries to use the expertise and institutions of the
Montreal Protocol to phase down the consumption and production
of hydrofluorocarbons," the White House said on the second day
of the informal U.S.-China summit in Southern California.
U.S. National Security Adviser Thomas Donilon told reporters
the two countries had done most of the work in advance of the
California meeting on Friday and Saturday, when the two
presidents discussed climate change.
"It was agreed that we have strong joint interests in
addressing the climate issue ... from a lot of perspectives
including sustainable economic growth," he told reporters.
HFCs are used in refrigerators and air conditioners. They
came into wide commercial use to replace ozone-depleting
chemicals that are being phased out under the 1987 Montreal
Protocol, but they are a big source of greenhouse gases that
contribute to climate change.
"The U.S. and China are the two biggest players in the
international climate arena, and the fact that they're talking
about cooperation is a pretty big deal," said Fred Krupp,
president of Environmental Defense Fund, a U.S. environmental
"It's only one step forward, but a very positive one," he
said in a written statement.
According to the White House statement, phasing down HFCs
worldwide could reduce some 90 gigatons of carbon dioxide
equivalent by 2050, an amount equal to about two years' worth of
global greenhouse gas emissions.
On Wednesday, leaders of the Bicameral Task Force on Climate
Change in the U.S. Congress wrote a letter to Obama urging him
to raise the HFC issue with Xi at their California summit.
The lawmakers warned Obama that with the United States and
China responsible for 43 percent of global carbon dioxide
emissions, "cooperation with China is essential if we are to
avoid catastrophic climate change."
They urged Obama to lobby Xi to support a proposal launched
in 2009 by the United States, Canada and Mexico to amend the
Montreal Protocol to reduce the production and consumption of
HFCs. The plan makes funds available for developing countries to
reduce their use of HFCs.
(Reporting by Steve Holland; Writing by Paul Eckert; Editing by
Peter Cooney and Paul Simao)