Senate secures HFC phase-out pact, but ratification uncertain
The White House last night kicked off the process of formally approving an international treaty to phase out a powerful class of greenhouse gases known as hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs.
The treaty, known as the Kigali Amendment, was submitted by the White House and received by the Senate at the close of yesterday’s session after a long delay that lasted three presidential administrations. It is widely supported by environmental groups and US industry, which is keen to manufacture the next generation of coolants to replace HFCs.
Used in air conditioners and refrigeration, HFCs have a heat-trapping potential thousands of times greater than carbon dioxide, and the Kigali Amendment is widely seen as crucial in limiting global temperature rise. over the next few decades. The 2016 accord requires countries to phase out chemicals by 85% over the next 15 years.
“It is high time that we join with the rest of the international community in tackling HFCs and taking the kind of bold and transformational climate action that this moment demands,” said the Speaker of the Senate for Environment and Labor audiences, Tom Carper (D-Del.) statement.
Carper led the passage of a bipartisan bill to phase out HFCs in the United States as part of the omnibus spending program late last year. The EPA unveiled regulations to implement the law in September, and the Biden administration is preparing a larger series of actions across the federal government to curb illegal imports and find new uses for alternatives to HFCs (Climate wire, September 23).
While the United States is currently on track to meet its domestic obligations under Kigali, ratifying the treaty requires the support of 67 senators, meaning 17 Republicans are expected to vote for the Senate amendment at 50-50.
Yet last year’s legislation had a large group of GOP co-sponsors. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) Led the bill’s introduction with Carper, and 14 of the other Republican sponsors still sit in the Senate. Kigali will also benefit from a boost from the business community.
“We are delighted that the Biden administration has submitted the Kigali Amendment to the Senate and we call for swift ratification,” said Marty Durbin, senior vice president of policy at the United States Chamber of Commerce, in a statement. âUS companies are poised to maintain their leadership in helping the world switch from hydrofluorocarbons to low-emission technologies, delivering a significant climate benefit. “
Ratification would close a process that has been going on for years. Former President Obama negotiated the treaty – an amendment to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer – in 2016, but the Trump administration has done little to push it forward, even when Kigali entered into force in the world.
Obama’s EPA had also drafted rules for HFCs, but they were struck down by the courts, which helped push Congress four years later.
The treaty will have to go through the Foreign Relations Committee before reaching the Senate floor. Manufacturers of air conditioning and refrigeration systems have said they will push for swift ratification, given the potential ramifications for the industry over time if it remains in limbo. Beginning in 2033, the amendment imposes certain trade restrictions between countries that are part of the agreement and those that are not.
“Ratification of the amendment – which we hope will be swift – will create the certainty necessary for US companies to strengthen their natural technological advantage both in refrigerants and in the manufacture of the equipment that uses them.” , said the president of the Institute of Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration. and CEO Stephen Yurek said in a statement.
David Doniger, senior strategic director of the climate and clean energy program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, noted that “the Montreal Protocol and its amendments have attracted broad bipartisan support from the Senate for over 30 years.”
“The Kigali Amendment deserves very similar bipartisan support,” Doniger said in a statement. âPhasing out these harmful chemicals will create well-paying jobs and open up export markets for manufacturers of new and safer products, while limiting a powerful contributor to climate change. “
This story also appears in Climate wire.