Biden’s administration is strengthening the limits of the use of man-made chemicals that are warming the planet. The Environmental Protection Agency announced a proposal to intensify an effort to reduce emissions of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), in line with an international agreement the US Senate ratified in September.
Hydrofluorocarbons are powerful man-made greenhouse gases that are rapidly building up in the atmosphere, accelerating the speed of global warming as a result. Currently, they represent around 1% of total greenhouse gases but their impact on global warming is much greater than that of carbon dioxide per unit of mass.
There are different hydrofluorocarbons but they vary in the range of hundreds to thousands of times more warming than CO2. Additionally, emissions of HFCs are growing at a rate of 10-15% per year.
On Sept. 21, 2022, US Senate ratified a pact that compels countries to limit the use of HFCs. What the Environmental Protection Agency proposes is a 40% reduction in the emissions of hydrofluorocarbons from historical levels, starting in 2024.
Since HFCs are only used in the industry, the reduction could be achieved by sharply reducing the number of production and consumption allowances that the government issues to businesses that use them.
HFCs are mostly utilized in air-conditioning and refrigeration at an industrial scale. Other uses include aerosol sprays, making various kinds of foam, fire extinguishers, and solvents.
Apart from building a system of allowances that limits the amount of HFCs in use in the US, the international Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol is another initiative that commits countries to phase out their use.
Under the environmental treaty, nations have to cut the production and consumption of HFCs by more than 80% over the next 30 years to avoid more than 70 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions by 2050. Solutions are also available to replace high-global warming potential HFCs in many sectors and reduce emissions.