U.S. ratifies global treaty to curb climate-warming chemicals in air conditioning, refrigeration

Environment

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) speaks to the media after the 51-50 vote passed the “Inflation Reduction Act of 2022” on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., U.S. August 7, 2022. 
Ken Cedeno | Reuters

The Senate has voted to ratify a global climate treaty that will phase down the use and production of hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, the climate-warming chemicals widely used in air conditioning and refrigeration.

The Senate voted 69-27 on Wednesday to move forward the 2016 Kigali Amendment, an amendment to the 1987 Montreal Protocol climate treaty that dramatically curbs the use of HFCs, which are thousands of times more potent than carbon dioxide at heating up the Earth. Forty-eight Democrats and 21 Republicans voted in favor; four members of the Senate did not vote.

The Environmental Protection Agency has said that regulatory action on such chemicals could help avoid up to 0.5 degrees Celsius of global warming by the end of the century. Emissions from HFCs rose between 2018 and 2019, according to the EPA, as demand for air conditioning and refrigeration rose amid record high temperatures in the U.S.

“This is a win-win in our fight against climate change and will go a long way to battle rising global temperatures while also creating tens of thousands of good-paying American jobs,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Wednesday.

Shortly after taking office, President Joe Biden issued an executive order requesting that Congress ratify the Kigali Amendment, among a series of other federal actions to reduce domestic greenhouse gas emissions. 

The U.S. joins 136 other nations and the European Union in ratifying the amendment.

“Ratifying the Kigali Amendment will allow us to lead the clean technology markets of the future, by innovating and manufacturing those technologies here in America,” Biden said in a statement. “Ratification will spur the growth of manufacturing jobs, strengthen U.S. competitiveness and advance the global effort to combat the climate crisis.” 

Environmental groups, politicians and industry groups have largely supported the worldwide phase-down of HFCs as a critical way to combat climate change and advance more sustainable technologies.

“HVACR companies and other stakeholders, from business to environmental groups, have urged the Senate to ratify the strongly bipartisan Kigali Amendment,” said Stephen Yurek, CEO for the Air-Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute.

“[Kigali] counts for the jobs it will create; it counts for global competitive advantage it creates; it counts with the additional exports that will result and it counts for U.S. technology preeminence,” Yurek said.

Congress in 2020 passed the American Innovation and Manufacturing Act as part of an appropriations bill, allowing the EPA to start regulating the chemicals and force industries to curb production and imports of HFCs by 85% over 15 years.

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