EPA Finalizes Landmark Rule to Curb Super Pollutant HFCs

Logo for U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency finalized the first new climate rule of the Biden-Harris Administration tackling hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), super pollutant greenhouse gases used for refrigerants. HFCs have hundreds to thousands of times the global warming potential of CO2 and are leaking out of refrigeration systems, escalating the climate crisis.

The new rule establishes an EPA program to phase down the production and use of HFCs in the United States by 85% over the next 15 years. This important step to curb these climate-polluting refrigerants was mandated by the bipartisan and refrigerant industry-supported American Innovation and Manufacturing (AIM) Act that passed in Congress last year as part of the December 2020 Omnibus bill.

The total emissions reductions of the rule from 2022 to 2050 are projected to be the equivalent of 4.6 billion metric tons of CO2, or taking over 1 billion passenger vehicles off the road for a year.

The Administration has also launched a task force to detect and prevent illegal trade of the potent gases. These actions support the transition to HFC alternatives (many of which are also more energy efficient) and encourage the responsible reclamation and recycling of HFCs from retired equipment to reduce HFC production in the interim. There is still more to be done on the policy front, and Green America continues to join the calls for President Biden to follow through on his promise to deliver the Kigali Amendment, a global treaty to phase down HFCs, to the Senate for ratification.

Green America applauds this highly pivotal step in curbing these emissions, but our Cool It campaign continues to urge supermarket companies, starting with Walmart, to move faster than the new rule’s timeline to eliminate the use of HFCs and switch to refrigerants with ultra-low global warming potential.

Additionally, we call on companies to immediately reduce their refrigerant leaks to restrict the amount of HFC gases that escape their stores and escalate the climate crisis. Leaks from supermarket refrigeration cause the emissions equivalent of adding 9.5 million cars on the road every single year. Our allies at the Environmental Investigation Agency report that more than half of supermarkets they’ve surveyed are emitting climate-warming refrigerants – companies shouldn’t wait to address these leaks.

Companies can take steps today to reduce leaks and phase out their use of HFCs in all facilities on more aggressive timeline.  The technologies are available, and some supermarket chains, including ALDI and Target, are already using HFC alternatives in stores. The climate crisis is not waiting, and we need major emitters to take responsibility and change practices at a rapid pace.