Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) are a lesser-known pollutant used in air conditioners and refrigerators. Despite being less emphasized than CO2 in the effort to slow climate change, HFCs are actually more effective at trapping heat. Fortunately, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced this week a new policy to phase out the coolant by 85 percent over the next 15 years.
The EPA estimates that this new rule will reduce greenhouse gases equivalent to three years of US power sector pollution. HFCs makeup only one percent of greenhouse gases, but are 1000 times more effective at trapping heat. Left unaddressed, these emissions could contribute another half-degree Celsius of warming to the world. Immediate action on this is especially important as the production of air conditioning units ramps up in our warming world.
In addition to cutting back on domestic production and import of HFC-producing appliances, another key step in reducing global emissions is the ratification of the 2016 Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol. The 1987 Montreal Protocol called for the end of ozone-depleting chemicals and has been largely effective. The Kigali Amendment builds on this agreement with the addition of HFCs. Although the US was previously not involved in this amendment, it now plans to join the 110 other nations which have ratified it.
17 US states have also passed bans or restrictions to begin their phasedown of HFCs, but a federal policy will help push forward this phase-out.