Air conditioners and refrigerators pose as big a threat to "life on the planet" as the threat of terrorism, Secretary of State John Kerry said Friday.
Kerry was in Vienna negotiating a global climate deal to phase out chemicals used as refrigerants in basic household and commercial appliances such as air conditioning and refrigerators, called hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs. The chemicals are a potent source of greenhouse gas emissions that many scientists blame for contributing to global warming.
Kerry made the remarks as part of a pep talk for negotiators working through the weekend to amend a 1987 treaty called the Montreal Protocol to deal with the chemicals.
"Yesterday, I met in Washington with 45 nations — defense ministers and foreign ministers — as we were working together on the challenge of [the Islamic State], and terrorism," he said. "It's hard for some people to grasp it, but what we — you — are doing here right now is of equal importance because it has the ability to literally save life on the planet itself."
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy is one of the U.S.'s lead negotiators in the discussions in Vienna. She said Thursday that one of her goals is to move the HFC agreement into force by the end of the year.
The global deal would match new EPA regulations to ban HFCs in the United States and promote alternative chemicals for use in appliances.
The EPA's rules, together with the negotiations in Vienna, are part of the president's climate agenda for his final year in office.