The Senate ratifies the international climate agreement on refrigerants


By MATTHEW DALY, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — In a major move to fight climate change, the Senate on Wednesday ratified an international agreement that requires the United States and other countries to limit the use of hydrofluorocarbons, greenhouse gases very powerful commonly used in refrigeration and air conditioning which are far more powerful than carbon dioxide.

The so-called Kigali Amendment to the 1987 Montreal Protocol on Ozone Pollution requires participating countries to phase out the production and use of hydrofluorocarbons, also known as HFCs, by 85% at least over the next 14 years, as part of a global phase-out to slow climate change. change.

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

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

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President Joe Biden pledged to adopt the Kigali Accord during the 2020 presidential campaign and submitted the accord 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.

“The Kigali Amendment will be one of the most important bipartisan actions the Senate will take all year,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y.

By ratifying the treaty, “not only will we be protecting our planet,” Schumer said Tuesday, but the senators will also provide “a golden opportunity to help American companies dominate in an emerging (global) business” of refrigerants that don’t depend on no HFCs.

“If we fail to ratify the amendment, the rest of the world will go on without us,” Schumer said. “Without Kigali, we will play second fiddle to countries like China, whose companies will outpace ours in developing viable alternatives to HFCs, taking jobs that by all rights belong here in America.”

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce also called for approval, calling the amendment a “win for the economy and the environment.”

Senate ratification “would improve the competitiveness of U.S. manufacturers working to develop alternative technologies and level the global economic playing field,” the group said in a letter to the Senate.

Ratifying the amendment “would continue the important, bipartisan action Congress took in 2020 with the passage of the U.S. Innovation and Manufacturing Act, which phased out domestic manufacturing 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 “tremendous market opportunity for our members to take advantage of game-changing technologies” that enable refrigeration in a more environmentally friendly way. environmental than HFCs.

“It’s 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.

Each year, millions of refrigerators and air conditioners are sold worldwide, and American companies are poised to meet that demand, Jahn 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 environmental treaty most successful in the world”. He said “the ozone is on the mend.” because the world has taken action to phase out chlorofluorocarbons, also known as CFCs, and other ozone-destroying 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 ratifying the Kigali Amendment would “unleash billions of dollars of economic benefit to the United States and create some 150,000 American jobs by 2027”.

Carper and Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., pushed for the HFC Phase-Out Act of 2020, saying it would give U.S. companies the regulatory certainty needed to produce alternative coolants. Both men represent states that are home to chemical companies that produce the alternative refrigerants.

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