(Washington, DC) – In a major measure to tackle climate change, the Senate on Wednesday ratified an international agreement that commits the United States and other countries to reduce the use of hydrofluorocarbons, highly potent greenhouse gases typically used in refrigeration and air conditioning. Much more powerful than carbon dioxide.
The so-called Kigali Amendment to the 1987 Montreal Protocol on Ozone Pollution requires participating countries to reduce production and use of hydrofluorocarbons, also known as HFCs, by 85% over the next 14 years, as part of a global phase-out aimed at slowing the climate . they change.
The Senate approved the treaty, 69-27, above the two-thirds margin required for ratification.
HFCs are a major driver of global warming and are being targeted worldwide. Nearly 200 countries reached an agreement in 2016 in Kigali, Rwanda, to reduce HFCs and find more atmospheric-friendly alternatives. More than 130 countries, including China, India and Russia, have formally ratified the agreement, which scientists say could help the world avoid a half-degree Celsius warming.
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President Joe Biden pledged to adopt the Kigali agreement during the 2020 presidential campaign and presented the agreement to the Senate last year, months after the Environmental Protection Agency proposed a rule that would limit US production and use of HFCs in line with Kigali. The EPA rule, in turn, followed a 2020 law passed by Congress authorizing a 15-year phase-out of HFCs in the United States.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y.
By ratifying the treaty, “not only will we protect our planet,” Schumer said Tuesday, but the senators would also provide a “golden opportunity to help US companies dominate in the emerging (global) business” of non-HFC refrigerants.
“If we fail to ratify the amendment, the rest of the world will go on without us,” Schumer said. “Without Kigali, we will play a secondary role for countries like China, whose business will outpace ours in developing viable alternatives to HFCs, and getting jobs that belong with every right here in America.”
The US Chamber of Commerce also urged approval, calling the amendment a “win-win for the economy and the environment”.
The group said in a letter to the Senate that Senate approval “will enhance the competitiveness of US manufacturers working to develop alternative technologies, leveling the global economic playing field.”
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Ratification of the amendment “will continue the important bipartisan action taken by Congress in 2020 with the passage of the American Innovation and Manufacturing Act, which phased out domestic HFC manufacturing,” said Jack Howard, the chamber’s senior vice president for government affairs.
Chris Gann, president and CEO of the American Chemistry Council, an industry group, described the modification as a “tremendous market opportunity for our members to take advantage of game-changing technologies” that allow cooling in a more environmentally responsible manner than HFCs.
“This is one of those really rare things that you get in the world of politics where it’s good for everyone” for the environment and business, he said in an interview.
Citing growing markets in Asia, South America and Europe, Gan said, millions of refrigerators and air-conditioning units are sold worldwide each year, and US companies are ready to meet that demand.
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 world’s most successful environmental treaty.” “Ozone is improving because the world has taken action to eliminate CFCs, also known as CFCs, and other ozone-destroying chemicals,” Donegger said.
Doniger said the next logical step is to replace HFCs with safer, commercially available alternatives.
Ratification of the Kigali Amendment “will unleash billions of dollars in US economic benefits and create about 150,000 American jobs by 2027,” Democratic Senator Tom Carper of Delaware, chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said.
Carper and Senator John F. Kennedy, Republican of Los Angeles, have pushed for a 2020 law to phase out HFCs, saying it would give US companies the regulatory certainty needed to produce alternative refrigerants. Both men represent two states that are home to chemical companies that produce alternative refrigerants.
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