Story at a glance
- Hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, are greenhouse gases emitted from air conditioners, refrigerators and other products.
- Despite composing lower amounts of emitted greenhouse gases, they are particularly harmful, and trap heat more efficiently.
- Industry and manufacturing leaders appear to support the transition.
A new rule issued on Monday by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) seeks to reduce the production and usage of a greenhouse gas featured in multiple household appliances as part of the Biden administration’s broader bid to pivot the U.S. economy away from fossil fuels and greenhouse gas emissions.
Under the American Innovation and Manufacturing (AIM) Act of 2020, the EPA is working to scale back the usage of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) in running refrigerators, air conditioners, fire suppressants, aerosol propellants and other household appliances.
HFCs are part of a broader group of greenhouse gases called fluorinated greenhouse gases. These are some of the more potent and longer-lasting emissions to linger in the atmosphere. Some of the largest sources of HFCs come from the manufacturing industry and gas production.
They are sometimes referred to as High Global Warming Potential gases since, although emitted in relatively low quantities, they trap more heat in the atmosphere due to their larger size.
By beginning to phase out HFCs on a global level, officials estimate that 0.5 degrees Celsius of global warming can be avoided by the year 2100.
The U.S.'s phasedown of HFC usage aims at cutting 85 percent of usage over the next 15 years.
“With this proposal, EPA is taking another significant step under President Biden’s ambitious agenda to address the climate crisis,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “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.
Prior to this decision, the EPA and several other government agencies directed the Significant New Alternatives Policy Program to identify more sustainable and climate-friendly alternatives to HFCs.
Switching to sustainable cooling technologies is expected to save billions and protect public health along with the environment.
A separate environmental justice analysis suggests that cutting back on HFC usage will benefit vulnerable populations, namely very young, elderly, poor, disabled and Indigenous demographics.
Manufacturers and businesses reportedly support the gradual cutting of HFCs in favor of pivoting to more sustainable products.
“This HFC allocation rule is key to achieving an orderly HFC phasedown in the United States, creating a uniform federal approach to this effort, and capturing significant projected environmental and economic benefits,” said Karen Meyers, Vice President of the Rheem Manufacturing Company, and Chairman of the Alliance for Responsible Atmospheric Policy.