Chemical Companies on Board With International Coolant Limits

Honeywell, DuPont and others have been among the foremost supporters of HFC restrictions.

The international community broadly reached an agreement over the weekend to slash the use of coolant chemicals that increasingly contribute to rising global temperatures.

And unlike previous negotiations over other environmental regulations, The New York Times notes that industry largely allied with environmental advocates to promote the restrictions.

The pact, agreed to by more than 170 nations at a conference in Rwanda, mandates a freeze in consumption of hydrofluorocarbons — commonly called HFCs — in coming years and reductions to a fraction of those levels over subsequent decades.

The U.S. and other developed nations face stricter timetables to reduce HFC use compared to developing nations.

HFCs rose to prominence in recent decades as replacements for chlorofluorocarbons in air conditioners and refrigerators. CFCs were restricted due to their impact on the planet's ozone layer, but the replacement chemicals turned out to be especially potent greenhouse gases.

Although HFCs remain a relatively small component of greenhouse gases, particularly compared to carbon dioxide, critics worried that rising incomes in developing nations — often in hotter climates — would make the problem worse.

And the Times noted that although chemical companies opposed CFC limits in the 1980s, Honeywell, DuPont and others were among the foremost supporters of HFC restrictions some 30 years later.

Although the chemical industry likely doesn't share the motives of environmental groups — companies either hoped to limit cheaper competition from HFCs, capitalize on their alternative systems, or both — proponents were generally more than happy to welcome them aboard.

Scientists believe that the pact could avert up to half a degree Celsius of warming temperatures by the end of the century.

“It is likely the single most important step we could take at this moment to limit the warming of our planet and limit the warming for generations to come," said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

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