Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development

Administration Accelerates End Game for HFCs

Industry promises fast action to cut super climate pollutant

Washington, DC, 15 October 2015 – Today the White House, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Department of Energy (DOE), Department of Defense (DOD), and dozens of private companies launched the end game for hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) greenhouse gases both domestically through the federal procurement and the Clean Air Act, and globally, through the Montreal Protocol.  The HFC cuts were announced at a White House roundtable for private sector senior executives, organizations, and Administration officials, as part of the efforts to implement President Obama’s Climate Action Plan.  (See the White House Fact Sheet here.)

The Administration is implementing strong federal leadership in research, development, procurement, and regulation. The DOD will build weapons with new air conditioning and refrigeration that will significantly reduce HFCs, including in the Navy’s newest class destroyers and amphibious transport dock ships, and will share US technology designed to help protect climate with military organizations worldwide. EPA will accelerate the approval of technology safer for climate and will phase-down the use of damaging HFCs. Private companies including Arkema, Chemours (formerly DuPont), Daikin, Dow, and Honeywell announced new commitments towards the rapid commercialization of climate friendly substitutes for HFCs.

“Walking the walk on HFCs in the US has been essential for the President Obama’s global leadership to phase down these super greenhouse gases under the Montreal Protocol, where 95 parties have now submitted formal proposals to amend the treaty to cut HFCs,” said Durwood Zaelke, President of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development, who attended the event. “Many more countries including China, India, and Brazil, have pledged their support for the HFC agreement in bilateral meetings with President Obama.”

A global HFC phase down under the Montreal Protocol would avoid the equivalent of up to 100 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) by 2050, and 0.5C of warming by 2100, providing significant near-term gains to slow climate change.  The annual meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol will take place in Dubai 1 to 5 November. While almost all of the Parties are supporting the HFC amendment, there are a few in the Gulf that have yet to see the advantage of the HFC amendment, including Saudi Arabia, so the outcome remains uncertain.

Two reports on HFCs were released today estimating the US and global benefits of an HFC phase down.  Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory estimated that a modest 30% improvement in room air conditioners energy efficiency along with low-GWP refrigerants would avoid the equivalent of up to an additional 100 billion tonnes of CO2 by 2050, while also saving money for consumers. The combined transition of HFC replacements with energy efficiency improvements could avoid ~25 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent emissions by 2030.

The Oak Ridge National Laboratory addressed a key concern of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries, concluding that already available alternatives to HFCs performed as well as or better in the hottest climates. “Oak Ridge and their advisors proved once and for all that next-generation room air conditioning technology can help protect the climate and clean the air even in the hottest climates,” said Dr. Stephen O. Andersen, IGSD Director of Research. “High-GWP refrigerants are unwanted and obsolete and will be rapidly abandoned under national regulations and the pending Montreal Protocol HFC phase down amendment. It is particularly significant that the low-GWP natural refrigerant R-290 and the medium-GWP refrigerant R-32 (GWP 3 and 677 respectively) outperform the energy efficiency of the ozone-depleting greenhouse gas HCFC-22 and the high-GWP HFC-410A (1760 and 1923 respectively).”

The DOE will host an event later today with Secretary Moniz and Administrator McCarthy showcasing equipment related to private sector commitments announced today.  A press Q and A will follow.

IGSD’s Primer on HFCs is here.