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EPA forges ahead with HFC phase-down

After the US government committed to phase down HFCs in line with the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has taken a concrete step by putting forward the first rule under the American Innovation and Manufacturing (AIM) Act.

The AIM Act directs the EPA to sharply reduce production and consumption of these harmful pollutants by using an allowance allocation and trading program. This phase-down will decrease the production and import of HFCs in the US by 85 per cent over the next 15 years.

According to the EPA, in 2036 alone – the year the final reduction step is made – this is expected to prevent the equivalent of 187 million metric tonnes of CO2 emissions, roughly equal to the annual greenhouse gas emissions from one out of every seven vehicles registered in the US. The total emission reductions of the proposal from 2022 to 2050 are projected to amount to the equivalent of 4.7 billion tonnes of CO2 – almost equal to three years of US power sector emissions at 2019 levels.

The EPA’s proposal would set the HFC production and consumption baseline levels from which reductions will be made; establish an initial methodology for allocating HFC allowances for 2022 and 2023; and create “a robust, agile, and innovative compliance and enforcement system”.

The EPA intends to use the approach established through this rulemaking to issue allowances for 2022 by October 1, 2021, and plans to revisit the approach for subsequent years. In addition to proposing to establish a general HFC allowance pool and a “set aside” pool (e.g., for new market entrants), the proposal has other features. It outlines how the EPA plans to issue allowances for specific applications listed in the AIM Act that the agency was directed to provide allowances for, such as mission-critical military applications.

“With this proposal, (the) EPA is taking another significant step under President Biden’s ambitious agenda to address the climate crisis,” says EPA Administrator Michael S Regan.

“By phasing down HFCs, which can be hundreds to thousands of times more powerful than carbon dioxide at warming the planet, (the) EPA is taking a major action to help keep global temperature rise in check. The phase-down 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.”

The proposal is now open for comment, and the agency plans to finalise the rule later this year.

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