Taylor F. Dias – On August 9, 2021, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its sixth assessment report containing its latest findings on climate change. The United Nations created the IPCC to assess the underlying science of climate change. Although the report articulates that “there is no going back from some changes in the climate system”, the report is clear that slowing and stopping certain changes is achievable. In the wake of the IPCC report and prior to COP 26, the Biden administration has taken small steps beyond rejoining the Paris Agreement to help curb domestic greenhouse gas emissions. Notably, both environmental and industry groups find the regulation to be a win for both the climate and the economy.
Just months before the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, the IPCC released its report. The conference, referred to as COP 26, is the first conference since the Paris Agreement was formed in 2015 during COP 21. The Paris Agreement calls for countries to work together to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels. At COP 26, which was delayed by a year due to the pandemic, countries will reassess their emissions related goals. The reassessment of emissions goals is key because it has become clear, based on the IPCC report, that the Paris Agreement goals are insufficient to meet the 1.5 degree target.
Over the last several years, the U.S. commitment to meeting the 1.5 degree target has varied. In 2015, President Obama pledged to cut U.S. emissions to reach the Paris Agreement target. In 2017, President Trump announced the U.S. would quit the Paris Agreement to promote fossil fuels domestically. In 2021, President Biden, on his first day in office, rejoined the Paris Agreement and pledged to meet the most ambitious emission reduction targets yet.
On September 23, the Biden administration finalized its first piece of climate regulation, which aims to regulate hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) by limiting them by 85% over the next 15 years. These regulations help the U.S. meet the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol from October 15, 2016. HFCs are extremely potent greenhouse gases released by the production and use of aerosols, industrial refrigeration, and air conditioners.
Furthermore, on October 7, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) granted ten petitions to further reduce the use of HFCs by extending the regulations to residential air conditioners, dehumidifiers, and aerosol propellants. The EPA will have two years to craft rules to regulate these products.
According to the EPA, 70 total companies imported or made HFC chemicals from 2011 to 2019. However, many of these companies backed the HFC restrictions because they are already marketing alternatives. Within the past five years, many of these companies, including 3M, Honeywell, and Chemours, have already announced goals to dramatically reduce HFCs emissions by using HFC alternatives. Companies that use HFC chemicals are onboard with these regulations because the rules provide stable targets and, in turn, that stability can help companies be efficient in their investments moving forward and not waste resources guessing the direction of future U.S. climate policy.
By imposing HFC regulation, the Biden administration has proved that the U.S., a main contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions, is willing to step up to reduce emissions. Moreover, by providing industries that produce HFC intensive products with predictable and stable regulatory goals, the Biden administration has made it easier for these industries to meaningfully reduce HFC production and emissions.