May 3, 2021 - Energy & Environment

EPA moves to phase down powerful greenhouse gas

Michael Regan

EPA Administrator Michael Regan. Photo: Joshua Roberts/Getty Images

The Environmental Protection Agency Monday morning floated draft regulations to sharply phase down planet-warming gases used in air conditioning and refrigeration over the next 15 years.

Why it matters: The plan is designed to cut production and importation of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which are highly potent greenhouse gases, by 85% by 2036.

  • EPA said that under the proposal, the phase-down would prevent the equivalent of 187 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in 2036 alone.
  • That's "roughly equal" to the annual emissions from one out of seven vehicles registered in the U.S., according to EPA.

Background: The rule stems from wide-ranging bipartisan legislation enacted in late 2020.

  • The HFC phase-down has support among both powerful industry groups and the environmental movement.
  • The rule will effectively meet U.S. obligations under a 2016 addition to the Montreal Protocol agreed to in Kigali, Rwanda, even though the U.S. has not formally ratified the amendment.
  • That 1987 treaty successfully curbed the use of substances that deplete the ozone layer, but one side effect was that it boosted deployment of HFCs.

By the numbers: EPA estimates that implementing the regulation will provide $283.9 billion in cumulative benefits from 2022 through 2050.

  • The agency said that a global phase-down is "expected to avoid up to 0.5 °C of global warming by 2100."
  • That's a lot if it indeed happens. Earth has already warmed more than 1°C above preindustrial levels, and the most ambitious goal of the Paris climate agreement is to hold warming to 1.5°C.

Go deeper: E.P.A. to Announce Sharp Limits on Powerful Greenhouse Gases (New York Times)

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