Washington. President Joe Biden’s administration will announce a new rule Thursday drastically cutting the use of a group of powerful greenhouse gases commonly found in refrigerators and air conditioners, officials said.
The super-pollutants, known as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), can be hundreds to thousands times more potent than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere, exacerbating the climate crisis.
A set of new actions unveiled by the government “are expected to reduce emissions by the equivalent of 4.5 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide by 2050,” White House national climate advisor Gina McCarthy told reporters.
“That’s as much as three entire years of emissions from our power sector.”
Last year, Congress passed a law with support from both Democrats and Republicans to phase down HFCs by 85 percent below baseline levels within the next 15 years.
The move has support from US industry, which sees it as an opportunity to manufacture and sell their non-HFC refrigerants to the world.
Under the new actions, the government will also crack down on the illegal production and sale of HFCs, and support research into new alternatives.
The reductions would bring the United States in line with commitments called for by a treaty signed in Kigali in 2016, even though the world’s number one economy has not yet ratified the deal.
If similar reductions are implemented worldwide, it can prevent up to 0.5 degrees Celsius of planetary heating by the end of this century, Environmental Protection Agency chief Michael Regan told reporters.
The Paris climate accord of 2015 calls for the world to hold warming to 1.5C to avert a future filled with extreme weather events, desertification, mass species extinction and food insecurity.
HFCs were not always considered bad news.
They were first introduced in the 1990s, before their powerful heat-trapping properties were understood, to replace chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) that had been found to erode the ozone layer.