US Secretary of State John Kerry (R) and EU Commissioner for Climate and Energy Miguel Arias Canete (L) shake hands on the sidelines of a meeting to continue working to an amendment to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer at the UN building in Vienna, Austria, 22 July 2016.

Countries should quickly make the final push towards a new pact on curbing the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), a set of chemicals that have a strong global warming effect, US Secretary of State John Kerry said Friday in Vienna.

An agreement on HFCs is as important as international efforts to fight Islamic State extremists, the chief US diplomat argued, "because it has the ability to literally save life on the planet."

Kerry spoke during UN negotiations on lowering HFC emissions, which are widely used in refrigerators and air conditioners.

HFCs have been used to replace hydrochlorofluorocarbons, which were banned under the 1987 Montreal Protocol because they damaged the atmosphere's ozone layer.

Countries have been negotiating an amendment to that pact because HFCs have a potent greenhouse gas effect that is significantly higher than that of carbon dioxide.

The planned amendment would avoid up to a half degree of global warming by the end of the century and could therefore contribute to the goals of last year's Paris climate, which aims to keep global warming below 2 degrees.

"Amending the Montreal Protocol to phase down HFCs is one of the single most important unitary steps we could possible take at this moment to stave off the worst impacts of climate change," Kerry said.

Delegates in Vienna said there was still no agreement on a baseline level of emissions from which HFCs are to be phased down.

Delegates also had yet to agree on time schedules for the curbs, and on aid to help developing countries transition to less harmful chemicals.

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