The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the proposal of a rule to phase down the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), a greenhouse gas often used as coolants in appliances including refrigerators and air conditioners.
The proposal marks the first rule under the American Innovation and Manufacturing (AIM) Act of 2020, passed into law in December, which directs the EPA to phase down production and consumption of HFCs in the U.S. by 85% over the next 15 years.
EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan said:
“With this proposal, EPA is taking another significant step under President Biden’s ambitious agenda to address the climate crisis. 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. The phasedown of HFCs is also widely supported by the business community, as it will help promote American leadership in innovation and manufacturing of new climate-safe products. Put simply, this action is good for our planet and our economy.”
According to the EPA, reducing the use of HFCs will have a potent impact climate, with a global HFC phasedown estimated to avoid up to 0.5 °C of global warming by 2100.
While the burden of the new ruling will fall on appliance manufacturers, the HFC phase down aligns with the climate policies many have already put in place, and could act to benefit those already moving to eliminate HFCs from their products, and other companies providing HFC alternatives.
The Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM), an industry trade group with members including Electrolux, LG, and Whirlpool, recently published a statement petitioning the EPA to ban HFC refrigerants in home comfort products. Kevin Messner, AHAM Senior Vice President, Policy & Government Relations, issued this statement:
“The home appliance industry has taken the next step in its transition to more environmentally friendly refrigerants by petitioning the EPA to ban high global warming potential (GWP) HFC refrigerants in home comfort products, such as dehumidifiers and portable and room air conditioners. AHAM is asking EPA to begin the ban of these HFCs as soon as 2023 for portable air conditioners and most room air conditioners. The home appliance industry has already transitioned out of HFC blowing agent and by next year, most refrigerators will no longer use HFC refrigerants.”
Similarly, HVAC company Trane Technologies’ recent ESG report supported the passage of the AIM act. The report stated:
“We successfully advocated in the United States Congress for the passage of the American Innovation and Manufacturing “AIM” Act, which was signed into law in December 2020. The new law authorizes EPA to phase down HFC production and consumption and aligns the United States with the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol. We believe this will yield additional product innovation while creating jobs and stimulating the economy to the benefit of communities and the environment.”
The EPA stated that it will accept comments on its proposal for 45 days, and plans to finalize the rule later this year.