There have been recent advances in climate legislation in the United States. This has required the support of a wide range of public and private partnerships to advocate for more progressive policies. The time it often takes for advocacy to reach policy change is on the scale of years or more, which makes it difficult to address climate change at the speed at which it is required. In 2020, in response to an NGO-sponsored effort, Congress passed the American Innovation and Manufacturing (AIM) Act to reduce hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) emissions.
This successful example of advocacy turned policy in the United States was led by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), an environmental advocacy group. This advocacy aimed to phase out the use of HFCs, potent greenhouse gases commonly used in refrigerants and air conditioning systems. The effort resulted in a change in government policy when the Senate passed the AIM Act in December 2020.
HFCs have a global warming potential that is hundreds to thousands of times greater than carbon dioxide, and their use has been a significant contributor to climate change. The NRDC recognized the need to address this issue and set a concrete policy goal of reducing HFCs by 85% by 2036. The analysis found that the bill that Congress passed would shirk the equivalent of 900 million tons of CO2 over the next 15 years, or put another way, the yearly emissions of nearly 195 million cars. There are other positives to the AIM Act. The bi-partisan bill is expected to create 33,000 jobs, jumpstart $12.5 billion in new investments, including funding for research and development into alternatives, and get the United States in line with the Kigali Amendment of the international Montreal Protocol that focuses on hydrofluorocarbons and other substances that deplete the ozone layer.
In order for the advocacy to be successful, the NRDC used a multi-faceted strategy that included scientific research, economic analysis, and advocacy to make its case for the HFC phase-out. They worked with industry stakeholders to develop alternatives to HFCs and advocated for government action to incentivize their adoption. They also engaged in public education and outreach to raise awareness about the need for the HFC phase-out.
The NRDC was instrumental in driving this policy change, but they did not do it alone. They worked in coalition with other environmental groups, as well as with industry stakeholders, to build support for the HFC phase-out. They also worked closely with lawmakers and government officials to ensure that the AIM Act was passed and implemented effectively.
Since the passage of the AIM Act, there have been positive indications that the policy is impacting. Several major companies, including Walmart and Target, have committed to phasing out HFCs. The Department of Energy (DOE) has also launched a program to develop HFC alternatives, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed further regulations to limit HFCs use.
The NRDC’s successful effort to phase out HFCs in the United States is an example of effective climate advocacy that resulted in concrete policy change. Using a multi-faceted strategy that included scientific research, economic analysis, and advocacy, the NRDC was able to build support for the HFC phase-out and work with lawmakers to pass the AIM Act. The policy is still in the early stages of implementation, but there have been positive indications that it is impacting and contributing to the fight against climate change.
This Post was submitted by Climate Scorecard US Country Manager Dave Schroeder.