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The US Takes Major First Step to Phase down HFCs

WASHINGTON, Feb. 14, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) applauds the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for announcing its intent to ban the use of a certain set of super greenhouse gases, hydroflurocarbons (HFCs), and open the market to a number of important climate friendly alternatives.  These actions will send a strong signal to the international community that the U.S. is serious about tackling climate change as it pushes for an Amendment to the Montreal Protocol to begin ridding the world of these climate destroying gases.

HFCs are man-made chemicals, primarily used in refrigeration, air conditioning and foam blowing, which were commercialized to replace the ozone depleting chemicals currently being eliminated under the Montreal Protocol. HFCs are extremely harmful to the climate, with global warming potentials (GWP) hundreds to thousands of times higher than carbon dioxide (CO2). Fortunately, commercially available, climate friendly alternatives exist for a majority of their uses and additional alternatives are in development. 

"The U.S. has been behind the EU and most of the world in embracing low-GWP alternatives, using HFCs instead" said Mark W. Roberts, Senior Counsel and International Policy Advisor at EIA. "However, with President Obama's leadership in his Climate Action Plan, the U.S. is banning the use of the most harmful HFCs and opening the U.S. market to low-GWP alternatives, which will allow the U.S. to lead the international community in a phase down of these harmful chemicals."

The EPA is specifically banning the use of certain HFCs used in supermarkets, car air conditioners, and in construction foams.  In Europe, Japan, and Australia, legislation is already being proposed or implemented that is moving away from the use of all HFCs.  This is the first significant step by the U.S. Government to support the growing market of climate friendly alternative technologies and help move the U.S. industry to lead the world in developing and implementing the next generation of refrigerants.

"By banning one of the worst refrigerants used by supermarkets, the EPA is sending a strong signal to the industry that they must clean up their act and use more environmentally friendly refrigerants," said Danielle Gagne, HFC & Climate Policy Analyst with EIA. "Emission of HFCs from U.S. supermarkets amount to approximately 32 million pounds each year, which is the equivalent climate damaging emissions of approximately 12 million cars."

EIA supports the EPA's action, and as the 197 signatory countries of the Montreal Protocol meet in a few months to discuss the U.S. proposal to phase down HFCs internationally, EIA is hopeful that this U.S. domestic action will materially advance the Amendment to phase-down HFCs by all countries.

Further information available on request; please contact:

Notes to the editor:

- HFCs are man-made fluorinated gases (F-gases) developed and commercialized to replace CFCs, HCFCs and other chemicals that deplete the ozone layer.  HFCs are powerful greenhouse gases (GHGs), with global warming potentials hundreds and thousands of times more powerful than carbon dioxide (CO2), and are primarily used in refrigeration, air conditioning, foam blowing, aerosols, fire protection and solvents.

- HFCs represent approximately one percent of global GHG emissions, and 1.5 percent of U.S. emissions. Although their contribution to climate forcing is still relatively small, it is expected to soar in the coming decades, with emissions of HFCs increasing at a rate of 10-15 percent per year globally. Unless action is taken, global HFC emissions could reach 5.5–8.8 GtCO2e per year in 2050, equivalent to 9–19 percent of projected global CO2 emissions under a business-as-usual scenario. In the U.S. emissions of HFCs are expected to nearly triple by 2030.

- Each U.S. supermarket emits on average 1,556 metric tons of CO2 equivalent of HFCs annually from leaks in their systems.

CONTACT: Danielle Gagne, HFC & Climate Policy Analyst (202) 483-6621


SOURCE Environmental Investigation Agency

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