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Obama Addresses Reduction of HFC Refrigerants

WASHINGTON — In his speech on climate change yesterday, in which he outlined how his administration will seek to curb carbon emissions, President Obama also addressed plans to reduce usage of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), one of the primary classes of refrigerants employed by food retailers.

HFC refrigerants, such as R-404A, R-407A and R-507, are non-ozone-depleting replacements for R-22, but have global warming effects when leaked into the atmosphere hundreds of times that of carbon dioxide;For example,  R-404A has a global warming potential (GWP) of 3,922, compared to a GWP of 1 for carbon dioxide.

According to “The President’s Climate Action Plan,” released by the White House yesterday,  “Moving forward, the Environmental Protection Agency will use its authority through the Significant New Alternatives Policy Program to encourage private sector investment in low-emissions technology by identifying and approving climate-friendly chemicals while prohibiting certain uses of the most harmful chemical alternatives."

The document also pointed out the other ways the administration is tackling HFCs. At the Montreal Protocol, the international group that launched the phase-out of ozone-depleting gases, "we are leading efforts in support of an amendment that would phase down HFCs,” it read. In addition, in 2012, the U.S. “launched the Climate and Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollution [including HFCs], which has grown to include more than 30 country partners and other partners such as the World bank and the U.N. Environment Programme.

Earlier this month, President Obama and President Xi of China agreed for the first time that the U.S. and China will work together and with other countries to use the expertise and institutions of the Montreal Protocol to phase down the consumption and production of  HFCs, among other forms of multilateral cooperation. A global phase down of HFCs could potentially reduce some 90 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2050, equal to roughly two years worth of current global greenhouse gas emissions.


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