EPA Vows To Lead The Global Fight Against Air Conditioners

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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EPA Chief Gina McCarthy wants the world to stop using hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) in air conditioners and other consumers products as part of President Barack Obama’s plan to fight global warming.

McCarthy is so determined to make this happen, she’s taking the lead role at an ongoing United Nations summit to expand the current global treaty covering ozone-depleting substances. The EPA chief hopes that her agency’s recent HFC regulations will convince other countries to join the U.S. in limiting the chemicals.

“Because of the importance of taking aggressive action on these chemicals to achieve global climate goals, I will be leading the United States delegation at that meeting,” McCarthy wrote in an oped for The Guardian.

“Over the past year, the US Environmental Protection Agency has completed four separate actions that both expand the list of safer alternatives to HFCs and prohibit them from certain uses in the refrigeration air conditioning, foam, and aerosol sectors where safer alternatives such as hydrofluoroolefins (HFOs), hydrocarbons and lower-polluting blends are available,” McCarthy wrote.

“Solutions are here, and it’s time to amend the Montreal Protocol to reflect that,” McCarthy wrote, adding that phasing out HFCs would avert 0.5 degrees Celsius of global warming by the end of the century.

The EPA unveiled its latest HFC regulation earlier this month to regulate how refrigerants are handled and ban such chemicals where “climate-friendly” alternatives are available. The EPA was joined by the Department of Energy and the Department of Defense in issuing rules to phase out HFC use wherever possible.

The agency also got pledges from 20 companies to cut down on HFC use. McCarthy hopes such pledges will convince the rest of the world the U.S. is serious about tackling global warming.

“Nations that are serious about fighting global climate change need to come to the table in Dubai with a sincere intent to negotiate a global agreement to phase down these harmful chemicals,” McCarthy wrote.

The Montreal Protocol was a global agreement from 1987 to phase out substances being blamed for depleting the Earth’s ozone layer. The U.S. ratified the treaty in 1988 and has since been working to clamp down on ozone-depleting chemicals.

But now, the focus has moved to HFCs, a substance which doesn’t actually impact the ozone layer. HFCs are substances commonly used in refrigeration, air conditioning, foam and other products. HFCs don’t contribute ozone-depletion,according to scientists, because they lack chlorine.

HFCs, however, are greenhouse gases the Obama administration wants to clamp down on to fight global warming — which isn’t the focus of the Montreal Protocol. Getting countries to clamp down on HFCs, McCarthy argued, would help galvanize support for a broader global warming treaty to be hashed out in Paris later this year.

“It would set the stage for an ambitious and durable global climate agreement in December, when nearly all nations on Earth will come together in Paris to advance an unprecedented opportunity to protect our planet,” McCarthy wrote.

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