Attorney General Bonta: As California Faces Drought, Wildfires, Reducing HFC Emissions is Critical to Mitigating Worst Impacts of Climate Change
OAKLAND – California Attorney General Rob Bonta today joined a multistate coalition in support of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposal to phase down the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), a greenhouse gas that is thousands of times more potent than carbon dioxide in its ability to trap heat over a 20-year timeframe. HFCs are a commonly used refrigerant and the fastest growing source of emissions in the United States and the world. With a relatively short lifespan in the atmosphere, just 15 years as compared to carbon dioxide, which has a lifespan of more than a century, reducing HFC emissions is one of the most effective – and speedy – ways to mitigate the worst impacts of climate change and protect those communities already overburdened by pollution.
“The hard truth is: We’re running out of time in the fight against climate change. In California, we’re already seeing its devastating effects on our environment, our economy, and our communities – from deadly wildfires to record-breaking heatwaves to epic droughts,” said Attorney General Bonta. “We also know that the impacts of climate change are disproportionately borne by our low-income communities, communities of color, and tribal communities. That’s why, today, we’re urging the EPA to incorporate our recommendations to improve – and then swiftly finalize – its proposal to phase down the use of HFCs. Tackling our use of this super pollutant is one of the best steps we can take to fight climate change and stave off some of its worst effects.”
Already, Americans are witnessing the catastrophic results of climate change, whether it be wildfires and heat waves; sea-level rise and precipitation changes; or other changes that effect agriculture and food production. California alone saw approximately 10,000 fires burn over 4.2 million acres in 2020 and is currently facing a drought-induced state of emergency that threatens water quality, agriculture, fisheries, and as a result the economy and public health.
As the only greenhouse gas whose use is on the rise in the United States today, HFCs are an increasingly significant contributor to climate change. HFCs are widely used in residential, mobile, and commercial cooling systems – such air conditioning and refrigeration – as well in building foams and aerosols. Once deemed a safer alternative for the environment relative to ozone-depleting substances, which destroy the earth’s atmosphere, HFCs were later understood to pose huge environmental risks as a potent greenhouse gas with large global warming potential. Because of this high potential, its increasing share of emissions, and its relatively short lifespan in the atmosphere, reducing consumption and production of HFCs – in the near term – is one of the best options for stopping climate change in its tracks. According to the EPA’s estimates, the proposed phase-down would also be an economic boon, resulting in projected annual net benefits of $2.6 billion in 2022 and $17.9 billion in 2036.
In December 2020, Congress passed the American Innovation and Manufacturing Act – supported by California and other attorneys general – which provides the EPA with authority to regulate HFCs, and requires it to facilitate the phase-down of HFC use and production by 85% over the next fifteen years. The attorneys general support the EPA’s efforts to implement the Act’s HFC phase-down requirements and, in the comment letter, urge the EPA to:
- Incorporate the states’ suggestions about how to maximize benefits and minimize any harms to environmental justice and tribal communities in the final rule;
- Include strict enforcement mechanisms and reduce supply chain risk to ensure verifiable and meaningful reductions in HFC emissions;
- Consider the social cost, or long-term harm, of HFC emissions in evaluating the benefits of the proposal; and
- Swiftly finalize the rule as a lawful and critical step toward reducing harmful HFC emissions.
Attorney General Bonta joins the attorneys general of Massachusetts, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Vermont, and the District of Columbia, as well as the California Air Resources Board, the Maryland Department of the Environment, and the City of New York in filing the comment letter.
A copy of the comment letter can be found here.