The Senate approves the Kigali amendment to curb hydrofluorocarbons

With broad bipartisan support, the Senate on Wednesday ratified a global treaty in a 69-27 vote that would drastically limit the emissions of super pollutants that often escape from air conditioners and other types of refrigeration.

The treaty, known as the Kigali amendment to the 1987 Montreal Protocol, obliges countries to phase out the use of powerful hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, which are hundreds or thousands of times more potent than carbon dioxide in accelerating climate change. .

The United States became the 137th country to ratify the amendment, and negotiators said the move would encourage the remaining nations to follow suit. The previous Montreal Protocol repressed the production of ozone depleting substances.

US climate envoy John F. Kerry, who was in the Rwandan capital of Kigali when the amendment was negotiated, said the Senate vote “was in preparation for a decade and a profound victory for climate and l ‘American economy “.

The treaty, which was to win the support of at least two-thirds of the Senate, brought together an unusual coalition of supporters including the United States Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers, as well as the Natural Resources Defense Council.

In a statement, Kerry said that “companies have supported him because he drives American exports; climate advocates have supported it because it will avoid up to half a degree of global warming by the end of the century; and world leaders have supported it because it guarantees strong international cooperation ”.

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (DNY) said the ratification of the Kigali Amendment and the adoption of the Inflation Reduction Act was “the strongest climate change punch Congress ever has. taken”.

He said the treaty “will reduce global temperatures by about half a degree Celsius by the end of this century, a little discussed fact with a very significant impact.” This reduction is equivalent to approximately 1 degree Fahrenheit.

He called it a “winner for all in our fight against climate change”.

Durwood Zaelke, president of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development, said the ratification showed President Biden’s “continued climate leadership and his appreciation for the need to accelerate warming in the short term, avoid climate turning points. and slow down self-reinforcement feedback “.

Sentiment in support of ratification has grown in recent years.

The Senate, with Senator John Neely Kennedy (R-La.) As main sponsor, had during the 2020 lame duck session passed the American Innovation and Manufacturing Act, which authorized the Environmental Protection Agency to execute most of the regulations that would have been required in the ratification phase. Kennedy state is home to the Mexichem Fluor and Honeywell plants that produce the chemicals.

Most US industrial air-conditioning manufacturers had already pushed for adoption of the treaty in the name of American employment and competitiveness.

“The Senate reports that Kigali counts for the jobs it will create; for the global competitive advantage it creates; the additional exports that will result and count for the technological pre-eminence of the United States, “Stephen Yurek, president of the Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute, said in a statement. world air conditioning and that global demand is “exploding”.

However, many senators opposed the action. Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) Said domestic legislation is adequate. “We did it here, we did it well. We don’t need to get caught up in another UN treaty, ”he said.

Barrasso also complained that “this treaty is particularly bad because it doubles the practice of treating China as a developing country”. Like all other developing countries, China gets a grace period under the treaty before it has to cut down on HFCs.

Americans for Prosperity, backed by the Koch family, sent a letter to lawmakers urging them to vote no on the Kigali Amendment, warning that the vote could be included in the organization’s annual legislative scorecard. The letter stated that the treaty “would impose costly restrictions, serving as a consumer tax on air conditioning and refrigeration, on the American people and would give an unfair advantage to China and other US industrial competitors.”

Other Republicans opposed the treaty. Three senators – James M. Inhofe (Okla.), Mike Lee (Utah) and Rand Paul (Ky.) – joined Barrasso in questioning the Kigali amendment in an attempt to block a vote, according to two people who they spoke about the condition of anonymity because the holds were not public.

But Senator Thomas R. Carper (D-Del.), Who had partnered with Kennedy and whose status is the lowest in the country, said that “it’s not every day that you get a full-blown press from the business community. and join a wide-ranging press of the environmental community ”.

Dan Lashof, director of the World Resources Institute, said US manufacturers have been “innovators, so this only strengthens the US role in promoting solutions and will strengthen the US economy, as well as being a big win for the climate.” .

Maxine Joselow contributed to this report.

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