Senate ratifies international climate agreement on refrigerants

WASHINGTON (AP) – In an important action to tackle climate change, the Senate on Wednesday ratified an international agreement which obliges the United States and other countries to restrict the use of hydrofluorocarbonsvery potent greenhouse gases commonly used in refrigeration and air conditioning which are much more potent than carbon dioxide.

The so-called Kigali amendment to the 1987 Montreal Protocol on ozone pollution requires participating nations to gradually reduce the production and use of hydrofluorocarbons, also known as HFCs, by 85% over the next 14 years, as part of a gradual global abandonment aimed at slowing climate change.

The Senate passed the treaty, 69-27, above the two-thirds margin required for ratification.

HFCs are considered one of the main drivers of global warming and are targeted around the world. Nearly 200 nations reached an agreement in 2016 in Kigali, Rwanda to limit HFCs and find more friendly substitutes for the atmosphere. More than 130 nations, including China, India and Russia, have formally ratified the agreement, which scientists say could help the world avoid global warming of half a degree Celsius.

President Joe Biden pledged to embrace the Kigali deal during the 2020 presidential campaign and presented the deal in the Senate last year, months after the Environmental Protection Agency issued a limiting rule. US production and use of HFCs in line with Kigali. The EPA standard, in turn, followed a 2020 law passed by Congress that authorized the phasing out of HFCs for 15 years. in the United States

Biden called the Senate vote “a historic and bipartisan victory for American workers and industry” and said it would allow the United States “to lead the cleantech markets of the future” as global efforts to combat change advance. climatic.

The president’s envoy for climate, former Secretary of State John Kerry, said the deal will drive American exports, avoid up to half a degree of global warming, and ensure strong international cooperation.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called for the Kigali vote, along with the passage of a major climate law last month“the strongest one-two punch against climate change that Congress has ever taken.”

Ratification of the treaty will not only “protect our planet,” but it will also provide “a golden opportunity to help American companies dominate in an emerging (global) business” of non-HFC-based refrigerants, Schumer said. , DN.Y. .

Wyoming Senator John Barrasso and other Republicans opposed the treaty, saying it would give China preferential treatment by designating it as a developing country.

“Under this treaty, China would get an extra decade to produce HFCs,” putting the United States at a competitive disadvantage compared to China, Barrasso said. “There is no excuse for any senator to give China a subsidy at the expense of the American taxpayer.”

The Senate passed a largely symbolic amendment from GOP Sens. Dan Sullivan of Alaska and Mike Lee of Utah, stating that China is not a developing country and should not be treated as such by the United Nations or other intergovernmental organizations.

The US Chamber of Commerce was among those urging approval, calling the amendment “a win for the economy and the environment.”

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 taken by Congress in 2020 with the passage of the American Innovation and Manufacturing Act, which phased out domestic production of HFCs,” said Jack Howard, senior vice president of the chamber 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 breakthrough technologies” that enable more environmentally friendly refrigeration. compared to HFCs.

“” This is one of those really rare things that you get in the political world where it is beneficial for everyone “for the environment and business, he said in an interview.

Every year, millions of refrigerators and air conditioners are sold around the world and US companies are ready to meet that demand, Jahn said, citing growing markets in Asia, South America and Europe.

David Doniger, a senior climate and clean energy officer at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the Kigali amendment is based on the 1987 Montreal Protocol, which he called “the most successful environmental treaty in the world. “. He stated that “ozone is on the mend”. because the world has stepped in 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 “will exploit billions of dollars in US economic benefits and create approximately 150,000 US jobs by the end of the year. 2027 “.

Carper and Senator John Kennedy, R-La., Pushed for the 2020 law that phased out HFCs, saying it would give U.S. companies the regulatory certainty needed to produce alternative refrigerants. Both men represent states that host chemical companies that produce alternative refrigerants.

“Today, the Senate defended US innovation and thwarted the economic rise of China and other bad actors at a time when American workers and consumers need as much common sense support as possible,” Kennedy said. .

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