December 2, 2023

WASHINGTON – The Environmental Protection Agency will take its first major step in curbing climate change on Monday under President Biden to drastically reduce a class of chemicals that are a thousand times more effective than carbon dioxide at warming the planet, a spokesman for the agency confirmed .

The proposed regulation aims to reduce the production and import of fluorocarbons used in refrigeration and air conditioning in the United States by 85 percent over the next 15 years. It’s a goal shared by environmental groups and the business community, who are working together to promote bipartisan legislation that Congress passed in December to tackle the pollutant.

The move is important as it is the first time the federal government has set national limits for HFCs, which were used as replacements for ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons in the 1980s but have emerged as a major driver of global warming. More than a dozen countries have either banned HFCs or have some restrictions.

The speed with which the EPA is proposing the regulation underscores the attention the Biden government is paying to climate change, said Francis Dietz, vice president of public affairs at the Institute of Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration, a trade group.

“You move really fast,” he said. “They say you mean this very seriously.”

The EPA estimates that the HFC scheme would deliver $ 283.9 billion in health and environmental benefits by mid-century in conveying the gains to be made by fighting climate change.

The effort is part of Mr Biden’s ambitious strategy to cut the country’s greenhouse gas emissions roughly in half by 2030. They also align the United States with an international HFC reduction goal that the Biden administration has recognized as part of its intent in its efforts to revitalize American leadership in combating climate change.

Like methane, HFCs have short-term warming effects that are far more powerful than carbon dioxide, but they don’t stay in the atmosphere that long. Scientists have estimated that reducing these types of greenhouse gases can have a noticeable impact, slowing the pace of global warming by 0.6 degrees Celsius by mid-century.

“This is incredibly important,” said Kristen N. Taddonio, a senior climate and energy advisor for the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development, a nonprofit environmental group. “By acting quickly against these short-lived climate pollutants, of which HFCs are the most powerful, we can buy ourselves some time and actually help prevent climate tipping points.”

As part of a comprehensive coronavirus relief law, Congress last year approved a language instructing EPA to contain HFCs. New York Democrat Senator Chuck Schumer, who was the minority leader at the time, called it “the single greatest win in the fight against climate change to get this body down in a decade.”

The EPA estimates that by 2022 to 2050, the rule will eliminate the equivalent of 4.7 billion tons of carbon dioxide, or about three years of emissions, from America’s energy sector.

The agency said it conducted an “environmental justice analysis” which found that reducing emissions to warm the planet would “benefit populations particularly vulnerable to damage related to climate change, such as the world’s largest population. B. very young, elderly, poor, disabled and indigenous population groups. ”

Echoing an economic issue that Mr Biden has repeatedly raised when discussing his climate change plans, the EPA stated that American manufacturers are at the forefront of developing HFC alternatives and that the new regulations would enable these companies to: to be successful at home and abroad.

Mr Dietz said he hoped federal regulation means businesses don’t face a patchwork of HFC bans in different states.

“This is a big signal to states that the administration is taking this seriously and the federal government is taking it seriously,” he said.

In the final days of the Obama administration, 197 nations, including the United States, signed an agreement in Kigali, Rwanda, declaring their willingness to phase out HFCs. President Donald J. Trump never submitted the agreement to the Senate for ratification. Mr Biden, who brought the United States back to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, has pledged to send the Kigali amendment to the Senate for approval.