The Biden administration on Thursday will issue a final rule to rapidly phase down the production and use of a class of planet-warming super-pollutants found in air conditioners, refrigerators, aerosols and insulating foam.
The Environmental Protection Agency rule aims to reduce emissions of hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, by 85% within 15 years — a move that the Biden administration says will not only go a long way toward fighting climate change but also bolster U.S. manufacturing and innovation.
HFCs are short-lived but potent greenhouse gases, trapping thousands of times more heat than an equivalent amount of carbon dioxide.
The White House estimates that by midcentury the rule will result in pollution reductions equivalent to nearly three years of U.S. power sector emissions and savings of $272 billion in economic and public health costs, creating hundreds of thousands of high-wage union jobs in the process. In a fact sheet, it touted the action as “one of the most impactful federal efforts to reduce climate pollution in decades.”
“It’s a win for our workers, our climate and our country,” White House climate adviser Gina McCarthy told reporters in a call Wednesday.
The effort fulfills a key directive of the American Innovation and Manufacturing Act, which Congress passed with bipartisan support last year, as well as charts a path for the Biden administration to ultimately ratify an international deal to phase out HFCs. That global pact, known as the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, was signed by 197 countries in October 2016. In January, Biden signed an executive order directing the State Department to transmit the Kigali Amendment to the Senate for its advice and consent.
McCarthy told reporters Biden remains committed to submitting the Kigali Amendment for ratification, but she didn’t have an update on timing.
“The important thing,” she said, “is it really sends a signal to the rest of the world that the U.S. is in — we are all in on climate change — but equally importantly, if it sends a signal to the rest of the countries that they should be moving forward on the Kigali Amendment, then it could in the end have tremendous benefits.”
Scientists estimate that worldwide implementation of the HFC pact would stave off half a degree Celsius of global warming over this century.
Along with finalizing the EPA rule, the Biden administration will establish an interagency task force to crack down on the illegal trade of HFCs and invest $8 million over five years to identify and develop HFC alternatives.
“Moving from HFCs to climate-friendlier alternatives is an important part of President Biden’s plan to meet the climate crisis by cutting America’s heat-trapping emissions at least in half by 2030 — with big benefits for jobs, our health and a safer future,” David Doniger, senior strategic director for climate at the environmental nonprofit Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a statement.
Thursday’s actions come amid Climate Week in New York and the United Nations General Assembly in Manhattan. During a speech at the assembly on Tuesday, Biden pledged to double U.S. spending on international climate aid by 2024, from $5.6 billion to $11.4 billion. But as HuffPost reported, that still falls far short of what experts say poorer nations need to overhaul energy systems and adapt to climate impacts.
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