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U.S. ratifies global phase-out of HFCs

Treaty curbs emissions from air conditioners, refrigerants of super-pollutant by Steven Mufson The Washington Post | September 22, 2022 at 4:01 a.m.

With broad bipartisan support, the Senate on Wednesday ratified by a 69-27 vote a global treaty that would sharply limit the 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 -- compels countries to phase out the use of the potent hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, which are hundreds to thousands of times as powerful as carbon dioxide in speeding up climate change.

The United States became the 137th country to ratify the Kigali amendment -- and negotiators said the move would encourage the remaining nations to follow suit. The earlier Montreal Protocol clamped down on ozone production.

U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John 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 the climate and the American economy."

The treaty, which had to win support of at least two-thirds of the Senate, brought together an unusual coalition of supporters that included the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers as well as the Natural Resources Defense Council.

In a statement, Kerry said that "businesses supported it because it drives American exports; climate advocates championed it because it will avoid up to half a degree of global warming by the end of the century; and world leaders backed it because it ensures strong international cooperation."

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said that ratifying the Kigali Amendment and adopting the Inflation Reduction Act was "the strongest one-two punch against climate change any 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 talked about fact with very significant impact."

He called it a "win-win in our fight against climate change."

Durwood Zaelke, president of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development, said that the ratification showed President Biden's "continuing climate leadership, and his appreciation of the need for speed to slow warming in the near-term, avoid climate tipping points and slow the self-reinforcing feedbacks."

Sentiment supporting ratification has been growing in recent years.

The Senate, with Sen. John Neely Kennedy, R-La., as the lead sponsor, had passed the American Innovation and Manufacturing Act, which authorized the Environmental Protection Agency to carry out most of the regulations that would be required under ratification. Kennedy's state is home to Mexichem Fluor and Honeywell plants that make the chemicals.

Most U.S. industrial makers of air conditioning had already been pushing for the adoption of the treaty in the name of American jobs and competitiveness.

"The Senate is signaling that Kigali counts for the jobs it will create; for global competitive advantage it creates; the additional exports that will result and it counts for U.S. technology preeminence," Steve Yurek, president of the Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute said in a statement. He said that U.S. manufacturers already supply 75 percent of the world's air conditioning equipment and that global demand was "exploding."

Information for this article was contributed by Maxine Joselow of The Washington Post.

Print Headline: U.S. ratifies global phase-out of HFCs

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