White House, Federal Agencies, and Private-Sector Aim to Tackle Emissions of Super Greenhouse Gases

WASHINGTON, Oct. 16, 2015 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Yesterday President Obama announced several new executive actions and private-sector commitments that aim to mitigate and reduce emissions of potent super greenhouse gases, known as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). Additionally, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a proposed rulemaking that is designed to reduce the emissions of HFCs in systems currently using these climate-damaging gases. Taken together, these actions and commitments will have a very significant impact by eliminating more than 1 billion metric tons of CO2 equivalent from the atmosphere through 2025. Further, these actions and commitments represent important leadership by the U.S. domestically which should help generate momentum in the final weeks before the upcoming Dubai Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol, where countries will negotiate an amendment for a global phase-down of HFCs.

President Obama's new executive actions will help U.S. industry move more quickly to HFC-free refrigerant alternatives. By directing the EPA to continue expanding the list of climate-friendly alternatives and reduce the use of HFCs through the Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) program, the President is encouraging a significant shift in the U.S. market. Yesterday, the EPA announced it intends to initiate a new SNAP rulemaking during the first half of 2016, which comes close on the heels of a petition filed by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) calling on the EPA to delist several high and mid-range-GWP HFCs in a number of end-uses and applications. The EPA also released a proposed rulemaking to update refrigerant management requirements under section 608 of the Clean Air Act, which will regulate HFCs and require HFC users and technicians to undertake routine HFC leak detection and maintenance to prevent HFC emissions and to ensure that HFCs are not vented when the equipment is disposed.

"Domestic action in the U.S. is critical to phasing-down HFCs globally," said Lisa Handy, Senior Policy Advisor at EIA. "As one of the largest consumers of HFCs in the world, this announcement demonstrates that the U.S. is ready to move beyond HFCs and highlights important steps towards broader implementation and use of alternative, climate-friendly technologies."

In addition to actions by the EPA, the Department of Energy (DOE) released a report that revealed the positive performance of alternatives to HFCs in mini-split air-conditioning units in high ambient temperatures. Solutions in air-conditioning in high ambient temperatures has been a significant barrier to achieving an international agreement to phase-down HFCs and this study will prove important to negotiators, as it found that R-290 (propane), an alternative AC refrigerant with a GWP of 3, outperformed the energy efficiency of all other alternatives to R-22 that were tested in mini-split AC at temperatures ranging from 27.8oC (82.04oF) to 55oC (131oF).

Further, the Department of Defense (DOD), in addition to several commitments, announced it will demonstrate leadership through installing new climate-friendly technologies. The DOD's leadership could have broad positive effects on government procurement of climate-friendly, HFC-free technologies in general and could increase the effectiveness of the proposal to amend the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) to procure, when feasible, alternatives to high-GWPHFCs.

Adding to executive actions and agency announcements, the suite of commitments made by the private-sector yesterday, in addition to commitments made in September 2014, will further drive the development and growth of the U.S. and global market for low-GWP technologies and play a critical role in efforts to phase-down HFCs. Several companies announced new commitments to going HFC-free in the near future, trialing low-GWP technology, investing in low-GWP research and development, and reducing emissions of HFCs.

We are pleased to note that some chemical companies have finally committed to enact strict controls at production facilities worldwide to eliminate emissions of the dangerous, climate-damaging gas, HFC-23, a by-product from the manufacture of HCFC-22 with a GWP of 14,800. EIA highlighted the dangers of HFC-23 emissions and advocated for total control of HFC-23 in its 2013 investigative report, Two Billion Tonne Climate Bomb: How to Defuse the HFC-23 Problem.

Overall, the private-sector commitments taken yesterday will help build the infrastructure necessary for other companies to follow their lead in mitigating emissions and transitioning to HFC-free technologies. As the market for low-GWP refrigerants and technologies continues to grow, achieving an amendment to phase-down HFCs under the Montreal Protocol inches closer.

"The importance of yesterday's announcement extends well beyond the borders of the U.S. With the Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol just around the corner and support building to adopt a phase-down HFCs, these announcements could bring significant momentum to the negotiation process. A successful negotiation at the Montreal Protocol would not only be a huge win for mitigating emissions of HFCs, but would also be instrumental in setting a precedent for an effective global climate treaty this December in Paris at the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC," said Mark W. Roberts, International Policy Advisor at EIA.

CONTACT: Maggie Dewane, Press Officer mdewane@eia-global.org, +1 (202) 483-6621Source:Environmental Investigation Agency