The Air Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) and more than 35 other industry and environmental organizations, including the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers, petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in April to set national targets to curb the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) in refrigerators, air conditioners, and other appliances.

The EPA delivered today. It’s the first time the federal government has set national limits on HFCs. It’s also the Biden administration’s first concrete regulatory step to tackle emissions since the US’s announcement that it would slash emissions 50% by 2030.

HFC phase-out

The AHRI represents more than 300 manufacturers of air conditioning, heating, and commercial refrigeration, and water heating equipment.

The EPA has proposed to slash the use of HFCs, a potent climate-warming gas, by 85% over the next 15 years. The proposal would set annual “allocations” that gradually decline for each HFC producer and importer in the US.

In December 2020, the EPA under the Biden administration passed the AIM Act. It directed that the EPA:

[A]ddress HFCs by providing new authorities in three main areas: to phase down the production and consumption of listed HFCs, manage these HFCs and their substitutes, and facilitate the transition to next-generation technologies.

That reversed the HFC deregulations implemented by the Trump administration in February 2020 that canceled requirements to fix HFC leaks.

“The EPA estimates that phasing out HFCs could save the economy about $280 billion over the next three decades,” writes NPR, which then continues:

Consumers will likely see little or no change in their appliances. New appliances will use safer refrigerants. If an older air conditioner or refrigerator needs its cooling gas replenished, the person repairing the appliance will be more likely to use an HFC alternative.

Positive impacts

EPA chief Michael Regan said:

By phasing down HFCs, which can be hundreds to thousands of times more powerful than carbon dioxide at warming the planet, EPA is taking a major action to help keep global temperature rise in check.

And David Doniger, senior strategic director in the Climate & Clean Energy program at Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a statement emailed to Electrek:

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. The global HFC phasedown will avoid adding almost another degree Fahrenheit to our overheated world this century. This is a critical first step toward meeting our ambitious climate goals.

The NRDC points out that the “US production phasedown will produce huge benefits, avoiding HFC use in the US by the equivalent of 2 billion metric tons of CO2 over the 15-year phasedown period.”

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