In a key move to fight climate change, the Senate on Wednesday ratified an international agreement that forces the United States and other countries to limit the use of fluorocarbons, potent greenhouse gases commonly used in refrigeration and air conditioning systems and far more potent than carbon dioxide.
The so-called Kigali Amendment to the 1987 Montreal Protocol on Ozone Pollution requires participating nations to reduce the production and use of hydrofluorocarbons, also known as HFCs, by 85% over the next 14 years, as part of a global phase-out to slow the pace climate change change.
The Senate approved the treaty, 69-27, over the two-thirds margin required for ratification.
HFCs are considered the main driver of global warming and are being targeted around the world. In 2016 in Kigali, Rwanda, almost 200 nations agreed to limit HFCs and find more climate-friendly substitutes. More than 130 nations, including China, India and Russia, have officially ratified the agreement, which scientists say could help the world avoid half a degree Celsius of global warming.
President Joe Biden vowed to accept the Kigali deal during the 2020 presidential campaign and submitted the agreement to the Senate last year, months after the Environmental Protection Agency proposed a rule that would make U.S. production and use of HFCs consistent with Kigali would restrict. The EPA rule, in turn, followed a 2020 law passed by Congress authorizing a 15-year phase-out of HFCs in the US
“The Kigali Amendment will be one of the most significant bipartisan actions the Senate takes all year,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told DN.Y.
By ratifying the treaty, “not only will we protect our planet,” Schumer said Tuesday, but senators will also provide “a unique opportunity to help American companies dominate in a burgeoning (global) refrigerants business.” which they are not dependent on HFCs.
“If we don’t ratify the amendment, the rest of the world will carry on without us,” Schumer said. “Without Kigali, we will play second fiddle to nations like China, whose companies will outperform ours in developing viable HFC alternatives, and take over jobs that rightly belong here in America.”
The US Chamber of Commerce also pushed for approval, calling the change “an economic and environmental win”.
Senate ratification “would strengthen 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 “would continue the important, bipartisan action Congress took in 2020 with passage of America’s Innovation and Manufacturing Act that phased out domestic HFC manufacturing,” said Jack Howard, the chamber’s senior vice president of governmental affairs .
Chris Jahn, President and CEO of the American Chemistry Council, an industry group, called the change a “huge market opportunity for our members to take advantage of breakthrough technologies” that enable more environmentally friendly refrigeration than HFC.
“This is one of those really rare things you get in the political world where it’s a win-win for the environment and for business,” he said in an interview.
Millions of refrigerators and air conditioners are sold worldwide every year, and US companies are poised to meet that demand, Jahn said, citing growing markets in Asia, South America and Europe.
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David Doniger, a 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 agreement in the world.” He said, “Ozone is on the mend because the world has taken 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 Senator Tom Carper of Delaware, chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said ratification of the Kigali Amendment would “unlock billions of dollars in economic benefits in the U.S. and create about 150,000 American jobs by 2027.”
Carper and Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., pushed for the 2020 HFC phase-out bill and said it would give US companies the regulatory certainty needed to manufacture alternative refrigerants. Both men represent states that are home to chemical companies that produce the alternative refrigerants.
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