US passes HFC phase-down bill

The US government has passed a bill authorising a 15-year phase-down of HFCs in alignment with the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol.

The American Innovation and Manufacturing Act of 2020 (AIM) requires the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to implement a phase-down of the production and consumption of HFCs through an allowance program. The phase-down aims to reach approximately 15 per cent of 2011–2013 average annual levels by 2036.

AIM is part of a legislative package, the Consolidated Appropriation Act, 2021, which includes a US$1.4tn (AU$1.82tn) government spending bill and US$900bn (AU$1.17tn) COVID-19 relief package bill.

Outgoing US President Trump, who will be succeeded by President-Elect Joe Biden on January 20, signed the Act on December 27.

“(The AIM law) paves the way for the Biden Administration to increase the ambition and effectiveness of our domestic federal policy framework to reduce HFCs,” says Senior Policy Analyst for the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), Christina Starr in a statement.

“It doesn’t go as far as we’d ultimately like in requiring complete elimination of these gases, but the broader authority it gives EPA to better manage and restrict HFCs throughout their lifecycle provides more tools to increase emission reductions to meet net-zero emission targets.”

Through the AIM, the EPA is authorised to establish standards for the management of HFCs used as refrigerants through reclamation and recovery as well as improved servicing, repair and disposal practices. The agency will also be tasked to facilitate the transition to next-generation technologies.

A three-year grant program will be introduced under the new bill. The grant for small businesses would allocate $5m annually toward increasing recovery and reclamation of refrigerants at end of life.

The AIM includes a list of pure HFCs targeted for phase-down largely similar to the items listed in the Kigali Amendment.

For HFCs such as R404A, which consists of a blend of pure HFCs, Starr says “the allowances will be for the HFC components”.

The AIM brings the US into alignment with the 85 per cent phase-down of HFCs required under the Kigali Amendment for developed countries by 2036. Although the Trump administration has not sent the Amendment to the US Senate for ratification, Biden has said that he intends to “embrace” the Kigali Amendment in his first 100 days.

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