U.S. Has ‘Head Start’ on Potential International HFC Agreement

Gina McCarthy1

Yesterday, Dean Scott and I had the opportunity to speak with EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy about the ongoing negotiations in Vienna for a global phasedown of hydrofluorocarbons of HFCs—short-lived but extremely potent greenhouse gases.

The negotiations started last Friday in Vienna for a HFC phasedown amendment under the Montreal Protocol. The meetings conclude with high-level talks known as the Extraordinary Meeting of the Parties on Friday and Saturday. McCarthy is leading the U.S. delegation. The Vienna meeting is followed by an October meeting in Rwanda.

During our conversation, McCarthy said she expects that nearly 200 countries “will be delivering an amendment this year,” resulting in HFC reductions. For more on that, check out my story Global Deal to Cut HFCs Near ‘Finish Line,' EPA Says.

At the conclusion of our interview, we asked McCarthy how an international agreement would change the EPA’s regulatory approach. Here’s what she had to say:

“Well one of the things that actually led to the success here so far in getting the seriousness relative to this amendment has been the regulatory actions we've already taken under our SNAP [Significant New Alternatives Policy] program. So we've already taken opportunities in the U.S. to be driving the market for alternatives to HFCs and have effectively added low GHG-intensive alternatives that are available for use in a variety of sectors.

“That's what the SNAP program does. So it has effectively driven domestic action that is putting the U.S. in a leadership position. We fully expect that with the actions we've already taken, that we'll be able to meet the reductions that the international community will be embracing [under a Montreal Protocol amendment].

“So the question that you have is a valid one, but we probably have already got a big head start in our commitments moving forward. We'll see what the amendment looks like to see when we would need to take further regulatory actions as we move forward and as research and innovation continues.”

The full Q&A is available to Bloomberg BNA subscribers at International Deal to Cut HFCs Within Reach, EPA Head Says.