WASHINGTON (AP) — In a major move to fight climate change, the Senate on Wednesday ratified an international agreement which obliges the United States and other countries to limit the use of hydrofluorocarbonsvery potent greenhouse gases commonly used in refrigeration and air conditioning that are far more potent 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% over the next 14 years, as part of a global phase-out to slow climate 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.
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 released a rule limiting Production and use of HFCs in the United States according to Kigali. The EPA rule, in turn, followed a 2020 law passed by Congress authorizing a 15-year phase-out of HFCs. in the USA
Biden called the Senate vote a “historic bipartisan victory for American workers and industry” and said it would allow the United States “to lead the cleantech markets of the future” while advancing global efforts to combat climate change.
The President’s climate envoy, former Secretary of State John Kerry, said the deal will boost US exports, stave off up to half a degree of global warming and ensure strong international cooperation.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called for a vote in Kigali, as well as the passage of major climate legislation last month“the most powerful punch against climate change that a Congress has ever taken.”
Ratifying the treaty will not only “protect our planet,” but also provide “a golden opportunity to help American companies dominate in an emerging (global) business” of refrigerants that don’t rely on HFCs, said Schumer, DN. .Y. .
Wyoming Senator John Barrasso and other Republicans have opposed the treaty, saying it would give China preferential treatment by designating it a developing country.
“Under this treaty, China would have an additional decade to produce HFCs,” putting the United States at a competitive disadvantage to China, Barrasso said. “There is no excuse for a senator to handout China at the expense of the American taxpayer.”
The Senate approved a largely symbolic amendment by GOP Sens. Dan Sullivan from Alaska and Mike Lee from 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 United States Chamber of Commerce was among those seeking approval, calling the amendment a “gain for the economy and the environment.”
Senate ratification “would strengthen 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.
“Today the Senate stood up for American innovation and countered the economic rise of China and other bad actors at a time when American workers and consumers need all the sensible support they can get. “Kennedy said.
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