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New Federal Legislation Phasing Down HFCs Attracts Bipartisan Support


Washington, DC — Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) and Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), along with 14 co-sponsors, introduced legislation today phasing down the production and consumption of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), potent greenhouse gases widely used in refrigerators and air conditioners and subject to a global phase down under the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol.

The Montreal Protocol’s 2018 quadrennial Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion, confirmed that a fast phasedown of HFCs could avoid up to 0.5°C of warming, with the initial schedule of the Kigali Amendment capturing 90% of this potential (0.44°C; range 0.4-0.5°C), and can capture the rest with an accelerated schedule, or leapfrog strategy. 

The Scientific Assessment further noted that beyond phasing down HFCs, improving the energy efficiency of air conditioners and other cooling equipment has the potential to double the climate benefits of the Kigali Amendment in the near-term. Lawrence Berkeley National Energy Laboratory calculates that deploying today’s best available energy efficient technologies for stationary air conditioning and refrigeration can cut cumulative emissions from the stationary air conditioning and refrigeration sectors by 38–60 GtCO2e by 2030, by 130–260 GtCO2e by 2050, and by 210­­–460 by 2060, depending on future rates of de-carbonization of electricity generation.

The bill, which is consistent with the Kigali Amendment’s phase down schedule, has drawn significant bipartisan support, given the broad consensus among U.S. manufacturers seeking to capitalize on a transition to climate-friendly substitutes and alternatives, many of which are made in the United States.

The bill is co-sponsored by Senators Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Todd Young (R-Ind.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), and Ben Cardin (D-Md.)

“There’s always been a strong economic case for phasing down HFCs,” said Durwood Zaelke, President of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development. “And there’s always been a strong environmental case. Both are coming together in this legislation, which would be a rare win for all sides.”

Under the Obama Administration, the United States led the way in brokering the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, adopted October 2016. To date, the  Amendment has been ratified by 88 partiesWhile the U.S. industry supports ratification, the U.S. administration has not yet indicated whether it will send the amendment to the Senate for its advice and consent. In the void left by federal inaction, several states, led by California, have begun restricting certain uses of HFCs.  

The legislation, introduced in the Senate, is based on existing federal regulatory programs that phased out earlier generations of refrigerants, such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs). These programs are familiar to the environmental community and industry and largely seen as effective in balancing environmental and economic interests while incentivizing further investment in climate-friendly technologies, where U.S. industry has always played a leading role. 

The legislation also encourages and, in some cases, mandates the “reclaim” of used HFCs, which is a form of recycling. This helps dampen the need to produce new HFC compounds in the future while ensuring an adequate supply of HFCs for servicing existing equipment. Similarly, the bill provides for sector-based use restrictions, which is expected to allow some of the larger volume sectors to complete a transition out of HFCs well ahead of the broader phase down. 

A companion bill in the U.S. House of Representatives is being actively discussed and is likely to be introduced in the coming weeks.