The Environmental Protection Agency recently released a final rule that will sharply reduce the manufacture and use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) – potent greenhouse gases that are often used in refrigeration and air conditioning equipment.
“These harmful pollutants have an impact on warming our climate that is hundreds to thousands of times greater than the same amount of carbon dioxide. HFCs are exacerbating climate change and extreme weather events – and the corresponding public health threats, physical damage, and economic cost,” a White House statement indicates.
It is part of the Biden administration’s effort to battle climate change, and the EPA expects that a worldwide phasedown of HFCs can avoid up to 0.5 degrees of global warming by 2100. This is the first time a national limit has been set on HFCs, which were used to replace chlorofluorocarbons, an ozone-depleting gas that was phased out of use under the landmark 1987 U.N. Montreal Protocol. The phaseout of HFCs was also addressed under the 2016 Kilgali Amendment to the treaty.
While HFCs do not deplete the ozone layer, some of them have high global warming potential. The regulation would take effect in 2022 and would reduce the production and use of HFCs by 85 percent over the next 15 years, as mandated by the American Innovation and Manufacturing (AIM) Act, which was passed in December 2020 and backed by a broad coalition of industry and environmental groups, according to an EPA press release.
“American companies are at the forefront of developing HFC alternatives and the technologies that use them, and the AIM Act provides these companies additional opportunities to continue to innovate,” the release continues.
The EPA estimates that that move will prevent the equivalent of 4.6 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide from being emitted – about the same as three years of U.S. power sector emissions. It is projected to have a net economic benefit of more than $272 billion on health and the environment.
The steps being taken to reduce the use of HFCs are: preventing illegal production, use, and sale of the substances; supporting the development of HFC alternatives; promoting the use of recovered HFCs from retired equipment to offset the need for newly manufactured HFCs; and advancing research and testing to identify HFC alternatives and technologies.
“Cutting these climate ‘super pollutants’ protects our environment, strengthens our economy, and demonstrates that America is back when it comes to leading the world in addressing climate change and curbing global warming in the years ahead,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in a statement.