Phase Down HFCs

Since the 1970s, NRDC has been at the forefront of the fight to eliminate pollution-intensive, ozone-depleting substances—often found in refrigerators and air conditioners—and replace them with climate-friendly alternatives. In the 1970s, we led efforts to ban harmful chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). In the next decade, we led advocacy for the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. In 1986, we made the first proposal for a global CFC phase-out, leading to one of the world’s greatest environmental achievements.

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When CFCs were phased out, hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) replaced them. While HFCs don’t destroy the ozone layer, these super-polluters still have hundreds to thousands of times the heat-trapping power of carbon dioxide. They are also the fastest growing climate pollutants and their unchecked growth could add up to 0.5 degrees Celsius to global temperatures by century’s end.

Eight years ago, we proposed using the Montreal Protocol again to phase down HFCs and built support in key countries, especially the United States, India, and China. On October 15, 2016, that work paid off when more than 150 countries signed the landmark Kigali Amendment (named after the Rwandan capital where it was adopted). This agreement will cut off the rampant growth of HFCs and replace them with a new generation of alternative chemicals and products that use less energy and produce less pollution. 

We estimate that the HFC use avoided through the Kigali Amendment will be equal to more than 70 billion tons of carbon dioxide over the next 35 years. That’s equal to knocking out the entire planet’s carbon emissions for more than two years.

But we’re not done yet. We must make sure that the Kigali Amendment is honored and implemented in the United States and in other countries like China and India. We’re working with industry partners to create more efficient air conditioners and refrigerators that rely less on harmful chemicals while still fulfilling a very important need. We are also working to reduce the need for air conditioning by expanding the use of more efficient air conditioners and cool roofs. We will also use our unparalleled technical, legal, and policy expertise to ensure that the Montreal Protocol is adequately funded and that all signatories do their part.

Our four decades of experience has sharpened our unparalleled legal, technical, and policy expertise on how to effectively limit these dangerous chemicals. As always, we remain focused on the next horizon and how we can make it safer and greener.

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