EPA to Curb HFCs, Severe Climate-Damaging Pollutants Used as Coolants


Air conditioning systems on buildings with the New York skyline in the background from Gutenberg, New Jersey on May 4, 2021. The EPA has moved to regulate HFCs, powerful greenhouse gases central to refrigeration and air-conditioning. Kena Betancur / VIEWpress / Corbis via Getty Images

A new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule, first proposed in May, will lower the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) 85 percent over the next 15 years.

HFCs have a thousand times the heat-trapping potency of carbon dioxide and often leak through pipes or appliances that use compressed refrigerants like air-conditioners and refrigerators. The White House says the rule will cut the equivalent of three years’ worth of climate pollution from the electricity sector, and is an important way to show America’s commitment to dealing with climate change before the upcoming climate summit in Glasgow.

Business interests that use HFCs are largely supportive of the rule, telling The New York Times it is “good for the environment, good for the economy, and good for trade.” A growing number of refrigerator and air-conditioning manufacturers have already moved to limit their use of HFCs and offer new models that use a more climate-friendly alternative.

Scientists estimate that a global push to reduce HFCs could avoid a half degree Celsius of global warming over this century.

As reported by CBS News:

EPA Administrator Michael Regan said the phasedown is backed by a coalition of industry groups that see it as an opportunity to “supercharge” American leadership on domestic manufacturing and production of alternative refrigerants. The industry has long been shifting to the use of alternative refrigerants and pushed for a federal standard to avoid a patchwork of state laws and regulations.

“This action reaffirms what President Biden always says — that when he thinks about climate, he thinks about jobs,” Regan said, echoing a Biden refrain about climate change. Transitioning to safer alternatives and more energy-efficient cooling technologies is expected to generate more than $270 billion in cost savings and public health benefits over the next 30 years, Regan said.

A pandemic relief and spending bill passed by Congress last December directs the EPA to sharply reduce production and use of HFCs. The measure won wide support and was hailed as the most significant climate change law in at least a decade.

For a deeper dive:

CBS News, The New York Times, HuffPost, CNBC, The Hill, TIME, CNN

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