(WASHINGTON, DC) — In a major action to tackle climate changeThe Senate on Wednesday ratified an international agreement that forces the United States and other countries to limit the use of hydrofluorocarbons, highly potent greenhouse gases commonly used in refrigeration and air conditioning that are far more potent than carbon dioxide.
The so-called Kigali Amendment to Montreal Protocol of 1987 on ozone pollution requires participating nations to phase out the production and use of hydrofluorocarbons, also known as HFCs, by 85% over the next 14 years as part of a global phase-out designed to slow climate change.
The Senate approved the treaty, 69-27, above the two-thirds margin needed for ratification.
HFCs are considered a major driver of global warming and are targeting the entire world. Nearly 200 countries reached an agreement in 2016 in Kigali, Rwanda, to limit HFCs and find substitutes that are kinder to the atmosphere. More than 130 countries, including China, India and Russia, have formally ratified the agreement, which scientists say could help the world avoid half a degree Celsius of global warming.
President Joe Biden pledged to accept the deal in Kigali during the 2020 presidential campaign and introduced the agreement in the Senate last year, months after the Environmental Protection Agency proposed a rule that would limit the production and use of HFCs in the US in accordance with Kigali. The EPA rule, in turn, follows a 2020 law passed by Congress that authorized a 15-year phaseout of HFCs in the U.S.
“The Kigali amendment will be one of the most significant bipartisan measures the Senate takes all year,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y.
By ratifying the treaty, “not only will we protect our planet,” Schumer said Tuesday, but the senators will also provide “a golden opportunity to help American business dominate an emerging (global) business” of refrigerants that don’t rely on HFCs .
“If we fail to ratify the amendment, the rest of the world will move on without us,” Schumer said. “Without Kigali, we will be playing second fiddle to nations like China, whose businesses will outpace ours in developing viable HFC alternatives, taking jobs that rightfully belong here in America.”
The US Chamber of Commerce also called for approval, calling the amendment “a win for the economy and the environment.”
Senate ratification “would increase the competitiveness of US manufacturers working to develop alternative technologies and level the global economic playing field,” the group said in a letter to the Senate.
Ratification of the amendment “will continue the important, bipartisan action Congress took in 2020 with the passage of the American Innovation and Manufacturing Act, which phased out domestic production of HFCs,” said Jack Howard, the chamber’s senior vice president for government affairs.
Chris Jahn, president and CEO of the American Chemistry Council, an industry group, called the amendment “a huge market opportunity for our members to take advantage of game-changing technologies” that enable greener refrigeration than HFCs.
“It’s one of those really rare things you get in the policy world where it’s a win-win” for the environment and business, he said in an interview.
Every year, millions of refrigerators and air conditioners are sold around the world, and American firms are poised to meet that demand, Yang said, citing growing markets in Asia, South America and Europe.
David Doniger, senior climate and clean energy official at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the Kigali amendment builds on the 1987 Montreal Protocol, which he called “the most successful environmental treaty in the world.” He said “the ozone is recovering.” because the world took action to eliminate chlorofluorocarbons, also known as CFCs, and other ozone-depleting chemicals, Doniger said.
The next logical step is to replace HFCs with safer, commercially available alternatives, Doniger said.
Democratic Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware, chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said ratification of the Kigali amendment would “unleash billions of dollars in U.S. economic benefits and create about 150,000 American jobs by 2027.”
Carper and Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., pushed for the 2020 law to phase out HFCs, saying it would give U.S. companies the regulatory certainty needed to produce alternative coolants. Both men represent countries that are home to chemical companies that produce alternative refrigerants.
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