International Negotiators Discuss Ban on Heat-Trapping Chemicals

Negotiators from around the world are gathering this week in Vienna to discuss a ban on chemicals they say are significant contributors to global warming.

While they are not the biggest contributor to climate-changing gases, the negotiators say hydrofluorocarbons trap heat in the atmosphere at a rate a thousand times higher than carbon dioxide.

Also known as HFCs, the chemicals are used in air conditioners, refrigerators and as propellants in industrial aerosols. HFCs became popular in the 1990s as replacement chemicals for chlorofluorocarbons and hydrochlorofluorocarbons, which deplete the ozone layer.

But in the last few years, the movement to phase out HFCs has gained momentum. DuPont, Dow and Honeywell have already begun to patent climate-friendly substitutes for HFCs.

According to the New York Times, the acceptance among major chemical companies that HFCs are a critical global issue has helped make the negotiating process to ban the chemicals much smoother than last-year’s efforts to tackle emissions from gas and coal.

The deal currently on the table would be an amendment to the Montreal Protocol, which banned ozone-depleting chemicals.

“Amending the Montreal Protocol to phase down HFCs is one of the single most important unitary steps that we could possibly take at this moment to stave off the worst impacts of climate change and to protect the future for people in every single corner of the globe,” Secretary of State John Kerry said in a speech to negotiators in Vienna on Friday.

More in Operations