U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan testifies before a Senate Subcommittee on Home, Environmental, and Allied Bodies hearing on the EPA’s budget proposal on Capitol Hill, Washington on June 9, 2021.
Jonathan Ernst | Reuters
The Environmental Protection Agency severely restricts the use and production of partially halogenated fluorocarbons, the climate-warming chemicals that are widely used in air conditioning and refrigeration.
The move is the first major regulatory move by the Biden government to reduce domestic greenhouse gas emissions. It is also the first time the federal government has set national standards for partially halogenated fluorocarbons, or HFCs, which are a thousand times more potent than carbon dioxide in warming the planet. The EPA said the rule could prevent global warming of up to 0.5 degrees Celsius by the end of the century.
The agency will begin regulating chemicals next year, forcing the industry to cut production and imports by 85% over the next 15 years, officials said during a virtual press conference Wednesday. The EPA proposed the rule in March and will finalize it on Thursday.
The EPA estimates that the agency’s scheme should reduce the equivalent of 4.7 billion tons of carbon dioxide, or about three years of emissions from the country’s electricity sector, to 2019 levels by mid-century.
Such a reduction would help the Biden administration’s promise to cut U.S. emissions in half by 2030 and achieve a net-zero economy by 2050. The President passed an executive order in January calling on Congress to ratify the 1987 Kigali Addendum to the 1987 Montreal Protocol, which aims to phase out HFCs.
White House climate adviser Gina McCarthy on Wednesday called the agency’s government a victory in fighting climate change and safeguarding US jobs.
“If we move in this direction, we will also open up a huge opportunity for American industry,” McCarthy said during the briefing. “HFC reduction is a great success story for the climate.”
HFC emissions rose between 2018 and 2019, according to the EPA, as the demand for air conditioning and cooling soared during the US’s historic highs
Some US manufacturers have already switched to more climate-friendly refrigerants, and some major chemical companies have supported the EPA’s proposal to phase out HFCs, including The Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute, a trade group representing manufacturers of heating and cooling systems Equipment.
EPA Administrator Michael Regan said the new limits would help the country transition to more energy-efficient cooling technologies while creating new jobs.
“This action reinforces what President Biden always says: When he thinks about the climate, he thinks about jobs,” Regan said during the briefing. “Its administration knows what is good for the environment is also good for the economy.”