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Biden administrator’s first climate pollution rule targets refrigerants

WASHINGTON – The Biden administration used its federal powers to limit emissions for the first time on Monday, proposing a rule that would phase out the use of a common refrigerant blamed for causing global warming.

Hydrofluorocarbons, known as HFCs and frequently used in air conditioners and refrigerators, are greenhouse gases that trap heat – and do so much more than other gases such as carbon dioxide and methane. . The new Environmental Protection Agency rule will require the United States to reduce the production and import of HFCs by 85% over the next 15 years.

The phasing out of HFCs globally is expected to prevent up to 0.5 degrees Celsius of global warming by the end of the century, according to the EPA, an important step towards meeting global targets. limitation of climate change to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

“Simply put, this action is good for our planet and our economy,” said Michael Regan, administrator of the EPA.

The move marks the first new regulation proposed by the Biden administration to tackle pollutants responsible for global warming, drawing inspiration from the U.S. Innovation and Manufacturing Act, which was incorporated into an expenditure bill. and massive Covid-19 relief that Congress passed in December and then – President Donald Trump signed into law.

As the Biden administration seeks to meet its goal of cutting U.S. greenhouse gas emissions to at least half by 2035, the fight against HFCs is one of the few fruits at hand , enjoying broad bipartisan support in Congress, as well as membership from industry groups.

Originally developed to replace other refrigerants like Freon, HFCs were once considered environmentally preferable because they have less of an ozone depletion effect. A better understanding of their ability to trap heat in the atmosphere has since generated widespread global concern.

The Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute, a trade group that represents major refrigeration manufacturers, applauded the EPA’s decision, saying it “would help create the certainty necessary for U.S. companies to maintain their natural technological advantage ”.

“It continues our path of job creation, innovation and commerce in industry, and we are pleased with the signal it sends to states and other countries around the world,” said its president, Stephen Yurek, in a press release.

The EPA said the phased introduction of more energy efficient cooling methods instead of HFCs would save “billions of dollars.” Senator Tom Carper, D-Del., Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said the rule, combined with other climate-related investments in December legislation, “would create hundreds of thousands well-paid jobs that will fight the climate. change.”

David Doniger of the Natural Resources Defense Council also welcomed the decision.

“Replacing HFCs is a critical and highly feasible first step to avert the worst of the climate crisis, and we have safer out-of-the-box alternatives that will save industry money on the market, ”he said.

The phasing out of HFCs globally is also called for in the Kigali Amendment, a 2016 update to the 1987 international treaty known as the Montreal Protocol. Shortly after taking office in January, President Joe Biden signed an executive order adopting the Kigali Amendment and beginning the process of sending it to the Senate for ratification.

The EPA plans to finalize the rule later this year after a 45-day public comment period and public hearing.

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