U.S. announces new moves to limit super greenhouse gases

by Reuters
Thursday, 15 October 2015 17:10 GMT

A customer walks past a display of refrigerators at a Sears store in Schaumburg, Illinois, near Chicago, Sept. 23, 2013. REUTERS/Jim Young

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New administrative measures and business pledges to phase down use of hydrofluorocarbons in fridges, air con

By Valerie Volcovici

WASHINGTON, Oct 15 (Reuters) - New administrative measures and private sector pledges to phase down the use of hydrofluorocarbons, potent greenhouse gases used in refrigeration and air conditioning, will reduce its consumption by the equivalent of 1 billion metric tons of CO2 through 2025, the White House said Thursday.

The Obama administration announced a set of executive actions and commitments by over a dozen companies to curb the use of super greenhouse gases known as HFCs, which have a global warming potential 10,000 times greater than carbon dioxide.

HFCs have been used primarily in air conditioning, refrigeration, and foam insulation, as a substitute to chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which deplete the ozone layer, after their use was phased out through the Montreal Protocol.

The United States, European Union, China, Brazil, India and other countries are now working to amend the U.N. ozone treaty to phase out HFCs, which trap up to 23,000 times more heat than carbon dioxide and can remain in the atmosphere for thousands of years.

The next round of Montreal Protocol negotiations will take place Nov. 1-5.

Among the new measures, the Environmental Protection Agency will propose a new rule that would improve refrigeration management practices and limit the use of both ozone-depleting and HFC refrigerants.

The Energy Department also said it plans to eliminate 8 million pounds of hazardous CFCs at a site in Kentucky, which enriched uranium for the U.S. nuclear stockpile during the Cold War.

The administration has set a target of reducing U.S. climate pollution by 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.

Among the private sector commitments was a pledge by Johnson Controls to expand its offering of high-efficiency, low-global warming potential (GWP) refrigerant options for its commercial air conditioning and industrial refrigeration products.

Dow Chemical announced it will eliminate high-GWP HFCs in its spray foam adhesive product lines, while Ingersoll-Rand said it would reduce refrigerant-related emissions from its products by 50 percent and operations emissions by 35 percent by 2020.

Tackling HFCs globally through the Montreal Protocol can avoid a global temperature rise of up to 0.5°C, according to the White House fact sheet.

United Nations climate change talks in Paris, starting on Nov. 30, will seek a global deal to curb global warming, which scientists say needs to be limited to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) to avoid the most devastating consequences in the form of droughts and rising sea levels.

(Reporting By Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Andrew Hay)

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