US ratifies global treaty limiting climate superpollutants

US ratifies global treaty limiting climate superpollutants

With broad bipartisan support, the Senate on Wednesday ratified by a vote of 69 to 27 a global treaty that would sharply limit emissions of super-pollutants that frequently leak from air conditioners and other types of refrigeration.

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

The United States became the 137th country to ratify the amendment – and negotiators said the move would encourage other nations to follow suit. The old Montreal Protocol suppressed the production of substances that deplete the ozone layer.

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

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

In a statement, Kerry said “companies have backed him because he boosts US exports; climate advocates have championed it because it will prevent up to half a degree of global warming by the end of the century; and world leaders have backed it because it guarantees strong international cooperation.

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (DN.Y.) said ratifying the Kigali Amendment and passing the Cut Inflation Act was “the punch most powerful against climate change that a Congress has ever taken”.

He said the treaty would “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 win-win 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 appreciation for the need to accelerate near-term warming, avoid hot spots climatic shifts and slowing down self-reinforcement”. returns. »

The sentiment in favor of ratification has grown in recent years.

The Senate, with Sen. John Neely Kennedy (R-La.) as its main sponsor, had during the lame 2020 session passed the U.S. Innovation and Manufacturing Act, which authorized the Environmental Protection Agency to enforce most regulations that would be required if ratified. Kennedy State is home to the Mexichem Fluor and Honeywell factories that manufacture the chemicals.

Most of America’s industrial air-conditioning manufacturers had already pushed for passage of the treaty in the name of American jobs and competitiveness.

“The Senate signals that Kigali matters for the jobs it will create; for the global competitive advantage it creates; the additional exports that will result and that matters to the technological preeminence of the United States,” Stephen Yurek, president of the Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute, said in a statement. He said US manufacturers already supply 75% of the world’s air conditioning equipment and global demand is “exploding”.

Still, many senators opposed the action. Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) said the national legislation is adequate. “We did it here, we did it well. We don’t need to get entangled in another UN treaty,” he said.

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

Americans for Prosperity, backed by the Koch family, sent a letter to lawmakers urging them not to vote on the Kigali Amendment, warning that the vote could be included in the organization’s annual legislative scorecard. The letter said the treaty would “impose costly restrictions, serving as a consumption tax on air conditioning and refrigeration, on the American people and give an unfair advantage to China and other industrial competitors of the United States.”

Other Republicans opposed the treaty. Three senators — James M. Inhofe (Okla.), Mike Lee (Utah) and Rand Paul (Ky.) — joined Barrasso in suspending the Kigali Amendment in a bid to block a vote, according to two people who have spoke on condition of anonymity because the takes were not public.

But Sen. Thomas R. Carper (D-Del.), who had teamed up with Kennedy and whose state is the lowest in the nation, said “it’s not every day you get a full press of the business world”. and are joined by a full-fledged press from the environmental community.

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

Maxine Joselow contributed to this report.

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