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US lays out next steps for HFC phase-down

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced an HFC reduction of 40 per cent below historic levels from 2024 through 2028. The rule aligns with the bipartisan American Innovation and Manufacturing (AIM) Act’s goals to reduce the production and consumption of HFCs by 85 per cent by 2036.

The US began its phase-down on January 1, 2022, with a reduction of HFC production and imports to 10 per cent below historic baseline levels. Since then, allowances have been required to import and produce HFCs.

Starting in 2024, the phase-down will be 40 per cent below historic levels. HFC allowances for calendar year 2024 will be allocated by September 29, 2023. The phase-down schedule under this program is consistent with the schedule laid out in the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, which the US ratified in October 2022.

In addition to setting up an allowance allocation program, the US HFC phase-down program has established enforcement mechanisms. According to the US EPA, since January 2022 the Interagency Task Force on Illegal HFC Trade, co-led by EPA and the Department of Homeland Security, has prevented illegal HFC shipments equivalent to more than 1 million tonnes of CO₂ at the border.

EPA can also revoke or retire allowances for noncompliance, in addition to civil or criminal enforcement action

“This rulemaking is a critical next step in the Biden-Harris Administration’s ambitious plans to phase down climate super-pollutants and ensure the United States leads the way as countries around the world implement the Kigali Amendment,” says Joe Goffman, Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator of EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation.

“The US HFC phase-down program, bolstered by domestic innovation to develop alternative chemicals and equipment, is paving the way for the United States to tackle climate change and strengthen global competitiveness.”

AHRI President and CEO Stephen Yurek says the allocation rule is a critical step in the implementation of the AIM Act schedule for phasing down HFCs.

“Our industry appreciates the work of the EPA and the timely issuance of this rule, as we prepare for the next HFC reduction step-down next January,” he says.

The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) has also applauded the announcement.

“This demonstrates EPA’s commitment to stay on track to deliver on the Kigali Amendment goals and protect our planet from destructive superpollutants,” says EIA Climate Campaign Lead Avipsa Mahapatra.

“The US is demonstrating leadership not just at home but also in international discussions at the Montreal Protocol to prevent illegal trade and unnecessary emissions, through robust implementation and enforcement of the HFC phase-down.”

The US EPA is planning two additional regulatory actions under the AIM Act in 2023. The first is a final rule placing restrictions on the use of HFCs in certain sectors to facilitate sector-based transitions to alternative chemicals. The second is a proposed rule establishing certain requirements for the management of HFCs and HFC substitutes in equipment, such as air conditioners.

Photo by Steven Abraham on Unsplash

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