Banning Another Greenhouse Gas?

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As the next round of international talks about climate change begin in Cancun tomorrow, optimism is low that the talks will lead to a major breakthrough among countries trying to cut emissions. But ahead of the summit, environmentalists applauded an initiative by a consortium of around 400 private companies to ban Hydrofluorocarbons—another contributor to global warming—in their refrigeration.
Attention at climate talks tends to focus on carbon dioxide. But there are other, short-lived gases that are even more potent, although there is less of them. Hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, are currently being used by many companies for refrigeration. The warming effect of these HFCs is at least 1,000 times that of carbon dioxide.

(Click here to read TIME’s Cancun preview.)

A multi-company group that signed a pledge to ban HFCs was co-chaired by Unilever and Tesco and includes Coca-Cola, Carrefour, Ahold, Nestle, Pepsico, Procter & Gamble, Kraft, General Mills, L’Oreal, Walmart and others, according to a release announcing the agreement by Greenpeace. In the release, Greenpeace, which has lobbied about HFCs for nearly two decades, said it hoped that participating companies “will be well on their way to total implementation by 2015.”
Greenpeace also said that policy makers in Mexico should ban HFCs and agree on incentives to encourage natural refrigeration alternatives. Shifting from HFCs to substitutes that are 100 times less potent as climate warmers could offset nearly a decade’s increase in warming that is expected from rising emissions of carbon dioxide, according to an Op-Ed in the New York Times by Veerabhadran Ramanathan, a professor of atmospheric physics at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and David G. Victor, a professor at the School of International Relations and Pacific Studies at the University of California, San Diego.
“This is an extremely important first step, and will pave the way for major changes across the industry.said Amy Larkin Greenpeace Solutions Director. “Now national and international policy makers must match these corporations’ targets by outlawing HFCs and making the transition to climate friendly alternatives both cheap and easy.”