US lags behind in curbing HFC emissionsJune 2013
Japan has introduced legislation to rid its atmosphere of hydro-fluorocarbons, or HFCs, the so-called super-greenhouse gases.
HFCs were initially commercialised to replace the chemicals that were destroying the ozone layer, but are themselves contributing to global climate change. In fact they are considered to be hundreds of times more damaging to the global climate than carbon dioxide.
HFCs are used primarily in refrigeration, air conditioning, aerosols and foam blowing and as fire suppressants and solvents, but commercial alternatives, kinder to the climate, do now exist for most of these functions.
Japan’s new law demands measures at every step of the HFC life cycle, including manufacture and the importing of refrigeration and air conditioning units.
The law also sets a timetable for switching to HFC-free goods or products using HFCs with minimal effects on global warming.
Japan joins the EU and Australia in regulating and lowering HFC levels. The revision of the European F-gas regulation for phasing down HFCs in the EU is now in operation, and last year Australia imposed an HFC tax.
This leaves the US as the only leading industrialised nation not to have acted to cut HFC use.
The US spearheaded proposals at the Montreal Protocol for a global cut in HFCs, and it co-founded the Climate and Clean Air Coalition to encourage reductions. However, despite its international activity, the US remains the world’s largest user of HFCs and lacks policies of its own to curb HFC emissions.
Mark W. Roberts, international policy adviser for the Environmental Investigation Agency, the UK-based NGO, commented: “The US has led the way in eliminating ozone-depleting substances and calling for a global phase-down of HFCs which would prevent the emission of 87bn to 146bn tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents by 2050.
“However, the US needs to join the rest of the industrialised countries and take serious actions domestically, if it is going to convince the developing countries that they should agree to the proposal for a phase-down of HFCs.”
The agency has formally urged the US to act immediately to halt unnecessary HFC use.
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