The California Air Resources Board approves plan for reducing short-lived climate pollutants, including HFCs

In a statement released on March 23, 2017 the California Air Resources Board (CARB) announced its approval of a plan to curb short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs).
In September 2016, the Governor of California signed the bill SB-1383 setting targets for reductions of short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs), including a 40% reduction in HFCs by 2030. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) aims at achieving this objective.

According to a CARB statement published on March 23, 2017, SLCPs such as black carbon, fluorinated gases and methane make up about 12% of greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions in California. CARB estimates that strong actions to reduce these greenhouse gases emissions could help reduce global warming by as much as 40% below 1990 levels by 2030.

Among all short-lived climate pollutants, CARB estimates that fluorinated gases and in particular HFCs are the fastest growing source of GHG emissions in California. Even if alternatives with much lower GWPs are already available, and despite the bans imposed by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in certain sectors, CARB reckons that the Kigali amendment phase-down alone will not be sufficient enough to reach California's HFC emission reduction goals by 2030 targeted by the SB1383 for the following reasons:
  • "The current oversupply of HFCs in the U.S. (as a result of “dumping” imports of HFCs at less than fair market value) will ensure that the supply of HFCs is higher than demand at the beginning of the phase-down in 2019.

  • The initial cap on HFC production and consumption is estimated to be much higher than the demand, delaying the transition to lower-GWP alternatives, and therefore delaying emission reductions.

  • Existing equipment using high-GWP HFCs has an average lifetime of 15-20 years, and can be expected to continue operating and emitting high-GWP HFCs well past 2030. The relatively long equipment life is responsible for a long lag time of 10-20 years between a production phase-out and an equivalent emission reduction.

  • Without diligent national enforcement efforts by the U.S. EPA, illegal imports of high-GWP HFCs into the U.S. from developing countries may be a significant issue, as developing countries do not start an HFC phase-down until 2029, and imported HFCs are likely to be much less expensive. A similar problem occurred in the U.S. in the 1990s when ozone-depleting refrigerants were banned but continued to be illegally imported into the U.S."

CARB expects its efforts to result in "HFC reductions of 25% below business-as-usual emissions" by 2020. In order to achieve this objective, CARB will continue to work with industry representatives to evaluate the impact of the Kigali Amendment on HFC emissions and will publish an assessment. The results will be considered in future rulemaking processes. An example of action could consist in developing limitations on the use of high-GWP refrigerants in new refrigeration and air-conditioning equipment where lower-GWP alternatives are available.

This assessment should be available later in 2017.