Delaware has joined the ranks of states acting to curb the super climate pollutants known as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). Governor John Carney last week directed Delaware’s Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control to adopt regulations curbing the use of HFCs.
The Delaware General Assembly endorsed the governor’s initiative by passing a resolution calling for the publication of final HFC-curbing regulations by March 30, 2020.
Seven states have now passed legislation or are developing regulations to reduce HFC use and emissions. California, Washington, and Vermont have enacted new laws. New York, Maryland, Connecticut, and now Delaware are writing regulations under existing legal authority. (See NRDC’s Fact Sheet on State HFC Action.)
Many other states in the US Climate Alliance are considering joining the HFC action club. With the addition of Montana this week, the Alliance has grown to 25 states and territories committed to climate action to meet our country’s commitments under the Paris Climate Agreement. These states represent more than half of the nation’s population and economy.
As Governor Carney explained: “Delaware is already feeling the effects of climate change. We are the lowest-lying state in the country, and our sea level is rising at twice the global average. This is a real threat that we need to confront together, and it’s not just about the environmental impact in our state. Any changes in weather patterns jeopardize Delaware’s $8 billion agricultural industry and our $3.4 billion tourism economy. For the sake of our economy and our environment, it’s crucial we continue to address climate change with urgency.”
HFCs are used in refrigeration, air-conditioning, insulating foams, and aerosols. They are powerful climate pollutants, with hundreds to thousands of times the heat-trapping power of CO2. As a result, even small concentrations of HFCs in the atmosphere can significantly harm the planet. And HFC atmospheric concentrations have been rising rapidly as HFC use has grown.
The good news is that curbing HFCs can bring climate relief relatively quickly. Once released in the atmosphere, HFCs decompose within a few months to a couple of decades, as compared with CO2, which lasts for well over a century. Phasing down HFC use globally can avoid an additional quarter to half degree Celsius of warming by 2100. That’s huge when you’re trying to hold overall warming below 1.5 or 2.0 degrees C. And that makes state action extra important.