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Photo: Kena Betancur/VIEWpress/Corbis via Getty Images

The EPA is finalizing rules today that cut powerful greenhouse gases used in air conditioning and refrigeration, part of a wider new White House strategy to deter these "super-pollutants" and boost manufacturing of substitutes.

Why it matters: The EPA regulation is the U.S. part of a planned global phase-down of chemicals called hydrofluorocarbons. The global phaseout can prevent up 0.5 °C of global warming by 2100, the White House said.

  • That's a lot if it happens — Paris climate agreement calls for holding global temperature rise to well under 2°C above preindustrial levels and ideally 1.5°C.

Driving the news: The EPA rule, first proposed in May, requires an 85% cut in production and consumption over the next 15 years, officials said.

The agency is acting under wide-ranging bipartisan legislation enacted in late 2020 that seeks to phase down the substances used in cooling, foams and other industrial applications.

  • The EPA rule is aimed at U.S. obligations under a 2016 addition to the 1987 Montreal Protocol, 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.

How it works: The White House this morning also unveiled a wider set of plans to combat HFCs and boost alternatives.

  • A new interagency task force with the Departments of Homeland Security, Justice, State and Defense to "detect, deter, and disrupt" illegal import or manufacturing of HFCs.
  • "Illegal trade in HFCs poses a fundamental risk to America’s climate and economic goals," a White House summary states.
  • There's a new Defense Department effort to survey "mission critical" military uses and plan for transition by identifying climate-friendly alternatives for use in ground vehicles and aviation, fire suppressants and more.
  • Another part of that effort will seek to use federal procurement more broadly to support alternatives to HFCs.

By the numbers: The EPA regulation is estimated to cut greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of over 4.5 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide by 2050, officials said.

  • That's "equal to nearly three years of U.S. power sector emissions at 2019 levels," a White House summary states.
  • EPA Administrator Michael Regan told reporters that transitioning to safer alternatives and more energy-efficient cooling technology is estimated to provide over $270 billion in cumulative cost savings and public health benefits by 2050.

The big picture: The Associated Press notes that the phase-down provisions Congress enacted last year had support from industry groups like the National Association of Manufacturers, American Chemistry Council and the Air-Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute.

  • "The industry has long been shifting to the use of alternative refrigerants and pushed for a federal standard to avoid a patchwork of state laws and regulations," AP reports.

Go deeper

EPA announces "roadmap" for forever chemicals regulation

Environmental Protection Administrator Michael Regan speaking during a press conference in the White House in June 2021. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

The Environmental Protection Agency unveiled Monday its planned actions to regulate pervasive industrial "forever chemicals" that are used in hundreds of consumer goods and have been linked to adverse health effects.

Why it matters: The long-ignored and largely unregulated chemicals, which can last for hundreds of years without breaking down, are facing new scrutiny under President Biden, who previously promised to designate them as hazardous.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
17 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Biden's carbon emissions-cutting pledge faces tough climb

Image from the Rhodium Group study "Pathways to Paris." Courtesy of the Rhodium Group.

The verdict is in: President Biden's U.S. emissions-cutting pledge isn't a fantasy, but the path to meeting it is very difficult and relies on forces outside of White House control.

Driving the news: The Rhodium Group just released an analysis of policy combinations that could close the gap between the current U.S. trajectory and Biden's vow under the Paris Agreement to cut emissions in half by 2030.

These technologies could bring America to net zero emissions by 2050

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The newest section of a project from Third Way, the Bipartisan Policy Project and Clean Air Task Force examines how energy breakthroughs could accelerate America's transition to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Why it matters: The report chapter, provided first to Axios, is part of a broader effort known as the Decarb America Research Initiative, which explores the best ways to move the U.S. toward a net zero carbon emissions future by 2050.

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