The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency finalized a rule this month that phases out the most damaging hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which are the contributors to greenhouse gasses found in air conditioning and refrigeration units.
The agency also approved more environmentally friendly approaches to replace the phased-out HFCs.
“The news reaffirms the serious global need to phase out these super greenhouse gases and domestic action by the U.S. is crucial to transition to climate-friendly alternatives,” said Mark W. Roberts, senior counsel for the Environmental Investigation Agency, an international environmental campaigning organization, in a statement.
By the year 2030, the projected impact of the HFC cuts will be the equivalent of between 78 million and 101 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, according to EPA estimates. This would be an important step toward meeting the nation's climate targets.
In a statement, major cooling and insulating manufacturer Honeywell praised EPA’s decision. “The EPA’s action will accelerate the adoption of solutions with far less impact on the atmosphere while also spurring private sector innovation and creating jobs,” said Honeywell’s Vice President Ken Gayer.
While some industries affected have already begun to transition away from HFCs – CocaCola installed its millionth HFC-free vending machine last year – some industries are less well-situated to adapt to the recent ruling.
The National Marine Manufacturer’s Association and Boating United were able to secure an extension on the deadline to phase out the HFC-based flotation foam used in ship construction while a replacement is developed and approved for use.
Even as these new bans slide into place over the next few years, the concerns over HFCs still linger. In the boating industry, for example, not all HFC uses have safer alternatives yet and in those areas the "super greenhouse gas" will remain in use.
“(EPA’s) action is a good start on eliminating dangerous HFCs. But many other uses of HFCs remain, and the job isn't done,” said David Doniger, director of the Natural Resource Defense Council’s Climate and Clean Air program. “NRDC will keep working to replace them with safer alternatives under the Clean Air Act and through the Montreal Protocol.”