May 16, 2021
EPA moves to eliminate powerful greenhouse gases from refrigerators, air conditioners
WASHINGTON - The chemicals that cool your refrigerator are warming the planet, but the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Monday announced rules to phase them out.

Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) are found in refrigerators, freezers and air conditioners worldwide. They can be hundreds or thousands of times more potent than carbon dioxide in terms of their planet-warming potential.

Eliminating HFCs worldwide would avoid half a degree Celsius of global warming, as they are among the most potent contributors to climate change. All greenhouse gas emissions to date have warmed the planet about 1.1 degree Celsius. The U.N. Paris climate agreement aims to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

"EPA is taking a major action to help keep global temperature rise in check," EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan said in a statement.

The rule would reduce manufacturing and importation of HFCs by 85% over 15 years. In 2036 alone, the final year of the phaseout, the EPA estimated that the rule would avoid emissions equivalent to one-seventh of the entire U.S. vehicle fleet. By 2050, savings would equal nearly three years of emissions from U.S. power plants operating at 2019 levels.

The agency said the ban would result in $283.9 billion in health and environmental benefits by 2050.

A treaty to eliminate HFCs globally, known as the Kigali Amendment, is ratified by 115 countries.

The prior Trump administration had refused to submit the Kigali amendment to the U.S. Senate. But Congress passed legislation late last year to bring the United States in line with the treaty.

The law had unusually broad support from both political parties, environmental groups and the industry.

"Replacing HFCs is a critical and totally doable first step to head off the worst of the climate crisis, and we have safer alternatives ready to go that will save industry money in the bargain," David Doniger, senior strategic director at the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group, said in a statement.

The proposed guidelines that the EPA issued Monday starts the rulemaking process. It would issue companies yearly allowances to produce or import HFCs and establish rules for trading them between companies. The allowances would decrease over time.

Manufacturers supported a phaseout. U.S. companies produce substitutes for HFCs and equipment that uses them.

The Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute, an industry trade group, said the "swift" action on this and a related rule "are welcome steps in the orderly HFC production and consumption phase down that our industry has sought for more than a decade."

Several states, including New York and California, had issued their own rules banning HFCs. Companies had worried about a patchwork of rules across the country.

"EPA's action will help create the certainty necessary for U.S. companies to maintain their natural technological advantage in the global HFC marketplace," CEO Stephen Yurek said in a statement.

HFCs were developed to replace a previous generation of refrigerants, which scientists in the 1980s discovered were depleting the ozone layer and exposing the planet to harmful ultraviolet radiation. Concerns about their contribution to climate change arose later.

"Put simply, this action is good for our planet and our economy," EPA chief Regan said. (Source: VOA News)
Story Date: May 4, 2021
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