The administration of U.S. President Joseph Biden continues to take action to limit emissions of HFCs.

On October 26, President Biden signed the instrument of ratification of the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, which orchestrates the global phase down of HFCs over the next two decades in order to avoid up to 0.5°C of global warming by the end of this century. This follows ratification of the Amendment on September 21 by the U.S. Senate.

On October 27, Biden tweeted, “I’m proud to sign the Kigali Amendment, a historic bipartisan win for American manufacturing and global climate action.”

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), part of the Biden Administration, has already taken steps to follow the Kigali Amendment’s HFC phase-down agenda under the American Innovation and Manufacturing (AIM) Act, passed in late 2020. On October 20, the EPA continued that process by issuing a proposed rule to implement the next step of the HFC phase down, a 40% reduction of consumption (imports) and production below the baseline level starting in 2024, and continuing through 2028.

The baseline period runs from January 1, 2011, through December 31, 2013, and encompasses 300.26 MMTEVe (million metric tons of exchange value equivalent, which is equivalent to CO2e) of consumption and 382.55MMTEVe of production. (The 300.26 MMTEVe number, revised from 303.89, is included in the proposed 2024 allocation rule.)

A 2021 EPA rule stipulated that in 2022 and 2023, consumption and production levels must be cut by 10% of baseline; the EPA issued 2023 HFC allowances on October 1. The reduction vs. baseline will gradually increase to 85% in 2036.

The 40% reduction in 2024 “is a very big drop,” noted Erin Birgfeld, the EPA’s Acting Branch Chief, Alternatives and Emissions Reduction Branch, Stratospheric Protection Division, during an online session on October 21 at the North American Sustainable Refrigeration Council (NASRC)’s Sustainable Refrigeration Summit. “We can do this. It’s going to be tough. At EPA, we’re running to make sure we can support that in as many ways as we can.”

The EPA will seek public comment “on the methodology we’re using to distribute allowances in 2024 and beyond” during a 45-day comment period that begins when the proposed rule is published in the Federal Register, which will happen “soon,” said Birgfeld.

The total emission reductions of the AIM Act from 2022 to 2050 are projected to amount to the equivalent of 4.6 billion metric tons of CO2 – nearly equal to three years of U.S. power sector emissions at 2019 levels, according to the EPA.

Comments sought on reclamation

In addition to the phase down of HFC production and imports, the AIM Act has two other parts, first, facilitating the transition to next-generation technologies through sector-based restrictions, and second, maximizing reclamation and minimizing leaks from equipment.

A proposed rule for the technologies transition piece, which will encompass around 40 applications in refrigeration, air-conditioning, heat pumps, foams and aerosols, will be issued later this year, said Birgfeld. The rule will be finalized by October 7, 2023.

In regard to reclamation of HFCs, the EPA released data and a draft report on October 17, and is eager to hear from stakeholders on reclamation and leak practices, costs, incentives, barriers and challenges, said Birgfeld. Comments, identified by Docket ID No. EPA–HQ– OAR–2022–0606, can be submitted on the EPA’s Federal eRulemaking Portal: by November 7.

In addition, the EPA will be holding a free virtual stakeholder meeting on November 9, at 11 am EDT. Register here.

The Biden administration wants recovered HFCs from retired equipment “to offset the need for newly manufactured HFCs,” and to be used “for federal facilities, equipment, and fleets.”

According to a new report, minimizing refrigerant leaks and maximizing end-of-life recovery and reclamation can avoid global f-gas emissions equivalent of more than 90 billion metric tons of CO2e this century – equal to nearly three full years of global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions today.  The report was produced by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development (IGSD), and Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). 

“We can do this. It’s going to be tough. At EPA, we’re running to make sure we can support that in as many ways as we can.”

d Erin Birgfeld, U.S. EPA

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