EPA finalizes rule to reduce climate-damaging HFCs in U.S.
July 6, 2015, Washington – On July 2, the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized a rule to prohibit certain uses of chemicals that significantly contribute to climate change in favour of safer, more climate-friendly alternatives.
This action responds to President Obama's Climate Action Plan by reducing emissions of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), a class of potent greenhouse gases used in air-conditioning, refrigeration, and other equipment, the EPA said in a news release.
The HFCs and HFC-containing blends affected by the rule are used in aerosols, foam blowing, motor vehicle air conditioning, retail food refrigeration and vending machines. In many of the sectors addressed by the rulemaking, EPA is also approving several alternatives under its Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) Program; the new options offer better climate protection without harming the ozone layer.
“[The] action delivers on the President’s Climate Action Plan and the administration’s commitment to acting on climate. And it is in line with steps leading businesses are already taking to reduce and replace HFCs with safer, climate-friendly alternatives,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy in the release. “This rule will not only reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions, but also encourage greater use and development of the next generation of safer HFC alternatives.”
Under the authority of the Clean Air Act and EPA’s SNAP Program, EPA reviews alternatives on an ongoing basis and issues updates to the lists of acceptable and unacceptable substitutes. The July 2 rule changes the status of certain high-global warming potential (GWP) HFCs that were previously listed as acceptable under the SNAP Program as unacceptable in specific end uses. These changes are based on information showing other alternatives are available for the same uses that pose lower risk overall to human health and the environment.
In developing and finalizing the rule, EPA received input from industry, environmental groups and others through workshops and meetings, and reviewed more than 7,000 public comments.
In April 2015, the United States, Mexico and Canada jointly submitted an amendment proposal to the Montreal Protocol, a global agreement created in 1987 to protect the stratospheric ozone layer by phasing out the production and consumption of ozone-depleting substances (ODS). The proposed amendment includes provisions to phase down the production and consumption, and eliminate byproduct emissions of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), potent greenhouse gases with global warming potential (GWP) thousands of times that of carbon dioxide. HFCs are widely used alternatives to hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and other ODS that are being phased out under the Montreal Protocol. If adopted, the amendment would reduce HFCs through 2050 by more than 90 gigatons of CO2-equivalent emissions, which is about 2 years of current global anthropogenic emissions of all greenhouse gases. A summary of the amendment proposal is available here.
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