US EPA proposes tighter HFC restrictions

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has moved to restrict the use of many “super-pollutant” hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) in new air conditioner and refrigeration systems, as well as in foams and aerosols.

The proposal targets the use of HFCs above a certain global warming potential (GWP) and will require most new equipment to transition to lower-GWP alternatives by 2025. This includes proposed limits for:

  • Residential and light commercial air conditioning and heat pump systems (including VRF): GWP limit of 700
  • Industrial, supermarket and cold storage refrigeration systems: GWP limit of 150/300, depending on capacity
  • Chillers: GWP limit of 700
  • Motor vehicle air conditioning: GWP limit of 150.

The proposed rule would prohibit the manufacture and import of products containing restricted HFCs by January 1, 2025, in most cases, and would prohibit the sale, distribution, and export of products containing restricted HFCs a year later, which in most cases would be January 1, 2026.

If implemented, it is estimated that the proposal could lead to emissions reductions of around 903 million tonnes of CO₂-equivalent by 2050, and net climate benefits of up to US$56.3 billion (AUD$81.5 billion).

The proposal has been welcomed by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), which has petitioned the EPA for measures to reduce HFCs.

“This rule is nothing short of critical for the US to meet its climate commitments under the Montreal Protocol by transitioning these sectors to less harmful alternatives,” says Christina Starr from the EIA. “This is an ambitious and comprehensive proposal that is very consistent with our petition to replicate California’s policies nationwide.”

“Establishing specific GWP caps sends a strong signal to the market that for any technology to be future proof its climate impact needs to be as close to zero as possible,” says EIA Climate Lead Avipsa Mahapatra. “The EPA analysis shows that meeting the limits proposed in the rule, in addition to the massive climate benefits, would have net negative compliance costs for the industry.”

More information on the proposed rule – including detailed information on GWP limits for more than 40 equipment types and end-use applications – is available in this EPA fact sheet.

Photo by Wally Gobetz on Flickr.

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