U.S. Proposes to Slash Super-Greenhouse Gases in New Refrigerators and Air Conditioners

Responding to a petition from EIA and others, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released a proposed rulemaking to ban the use of many super-pollutant hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) in new air conditioners, refrigeration as well as foams and aerosols. The estimated additional emission reductions of the rule are up to 903 million metric tons of CO2-equivalent by 2050, with net climate benefits of up to $56.3 billion.

“This rule is nothing short of critical for the U.S. to meet its climate commitments under the Montreal Protocol by transitioning these sectors to less harmful alternatives,” said Christina Starr from the Environmental Investigation Agency. “This is an ambitious and comprehensive proposal that is very consistent with our petition to replicate California’s policies nationwide.”

Most HFCs in use today have global warming potentials (GWP) which are thousands of times that of carbon dioxide. The proposal limits the use of HFCs above certain GWPs, requiring most new equipment being manufactured or imported to transition to more climate-friendly alternatives by 2025, as well as exported equipment beginning in 2026.

“Establishing specific GWP caps sends a strong signal to the market that for any technology to be future-proof its climate impact needs to be as close to zero as possible. The EPA analysis shows that meeting the limits proposed in the rule, in addition to the massive climate benefits, would have net negative compliance costs for the industry,” said Avipsa Mahapatra, Climate Lead at EIA.

EPA’s fact sheet on the proposed rule provides detailed information on the GWP limits for more than 40 different specific equipment types and end-use applications. Most importantly, it sets a 150 GWP for most commercial refrigeration equipment, including supermarkets and industrial refrigeration, and a 700 GWP for most air conditioning; the two sectors that dominate most HFC use and emissions. This rulemaking is proposed under the American Innovation and Manufacturing (AIM) Act of 2020, which implements the global agreement to phase-down HFCs by 85% by 2035 under the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol. The U.S. became the 140th country to ratify the amendment earlier this year.

In a statement,  EPA also said that the Interagency Task Force on Illegal HFC Trade, co-lead by EPA and the Department of Homeland Security and comprised of the Departments of Defense, Justice, and State, will continue to cooperate on and improve real-time monitoring to prevent illegal HFC trade.