WASHINGTON – In the Biden administration’s first rule to tackle climate change, the Environmental Protection Agency is proposing to gradually reduce the production and use of hydrofluorocarbons, very potent greenhouse gases commonly used in refrigerators and air conditioners.
The proposed rule follows a law passed by Congress in December allowing a phase-out of HFCs over 15 years. The new rule aims to reduce the production and use of gas by the United States by 85% over the next 15 years, as part of a global phase-out intended to slow climate change.
HFCs are considered a major contributor to global warming and are targeted around the world. President Joe Biden has pledged to adopt a 2016 global agreement to reduce HFCs.
“With this proposal, EPA takes another important step in President Biden’s ambitious agenda to address the climate crisis,” EPA administrator Michael Regan said in a statement on Monday. “By gradually reducing HFCs, which can be hundreds to thousands of times more powerful than carbon dioxide at warming the planet, the EPA is taking a major step to help control the rise in global temperature. “
The phase-down of HFCs is widely supported by the business community, said Regan, and “will help promote US leadership in innovation and manufacturing new climate-friendly products. Simply put, this action is good for our planet and our economy. “
A massive pandemic spending and relief bill passed by Congress in December and signed by former President Donald Trump, orders the EPA to dramatically reduce the production and use of HFCs. The measure has won broad support on both sides and has been hailed as the most important climate change law in at least a decade.
In addition to targeting HFCs, the U.S. Innovation and Manufacturing Act, or AIM Act, also promotes technologies to capture and store carbon dioxide produced by power plants and manufacturing and calls for reduced emissions. diesel from buses and other vehicles.
Delaware Senator Tom Carper, a Democrat who chairs the Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works, praised the EPA rule and said the United States is joining the rest of the world in reducing the use of HFCs, thus helping to avoid the worst effects of global warming.
“Passing the AIM Act was a momentous climate achievement that will help save our planet, and today we are getting closer to the reality of its benefits,” Carper said in a statement.
Carper and Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., Lobbied for the HFC proposal, which they said would give US companies the regulatory certainty needed to produce “next-generation” coolants as an alternative to HFC. The two men represent states that are home to chemical companies that produce the alternative refrigerants.
The supply of HFCs was supported by an unusual coalition that included major environmental and business groups, including the National Association of Manufacturers and the Air-Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute, which represents companies that manufacture residential and commercial air conditioners. , water heaters and commercial refrigeration. equipment.
The industry has long turned to the use of alternative refrigerants and lobbied for a federal standard to avoid a patchwork of state laws and regulations.
“EPA’s action will help create the certainty necessary for US companies to maintain their natural technological advantage in the global HFC market,” said Stephen Yurek, President and CEO of the Heating and Refrigeration Group .
David Doniger, senior climate and clean energy official at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the EPA rule will bring “enormous public health and climate benefits to all Americans.”
Replacing HFCs with safer, commercially available alternatives “is a critical and highly feasible first step to avert the worst of the climate crisis … which will save industry money,” said Doniger said.
The EPA estimates that the proposed rule would save nearly $ 284 billion over the next three decades and avoid the equivalent of 187 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions, or roughly l equivalent to the annual greenhouse gas emissions of one in seven vehicles registered in the United States.
Biden issued an executive order in January that encompasses the 2016 Kigali Amendment to the 1987 Montreal Protocol on ozone pollution. The amendment calls on the United States and other major industrialized countries to reduce HFCs by 85% by 2036. Biden’s order directs the State Department to prepare documents for submission of the amendment to the Senate for formal ratification.
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