17 July 2015
EPA Takes Steps to Reduce Use of Hydrofluorocarbons
The Environmental Protection Agency has finalised a rule to prohibit certain uses of chemicals that significantly contribute to climate change in favour of safer, more climate-friendly alternatives. The agency indicates that 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 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. Concurrently, the EPA has approved several new alternatives under its significant new alternatives policy programme that offer better climate protection without harming the ozone layer. The agency states that the final rule will reduce greenhouse gas emissions of 54 to 64 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2025, equal to the carbon dioxide emissions from the annual energy use of more than 5.8 million homes. HFC emissions are expected to nearly double by 2020 and triple by 2030 in the United States but new technologies and new climate-friendly refrigerants can significantly reduce these emission increases.
The National Resources Defense Council observed in a 2 July press release that the EPA's action "is well-timed to help push for faster phase-down of HFCs in Montreal Protocol negotiations later this month." The international non-profit environmental organisation believes that the new rule will not only help curb dangerous climate warming but also drive innovation in energy efficiency.