The Senate approves the climate treaty that limits powerful greenhouse gases

The Senate on Wednesday voted to ratify a climate treaty that limits the use of highly potent greenhouse gases called hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), although the United States has already taken steps to comply with the terms of the agreement.

With a vote of 69-27, the Senate voted to ratify the Kigali Amendment, which calls for a gradual reduction of HFCs. HFCs are often used in appliances such as air conditioners and refrigerators and can be thousands of times more powerful than carbon dioxide in terms of global warming.

While the approval of the treaty is a big symbolic step, the country already has similar laws in place.

In 2020, the United States passed a bipartisan bill requiring the gradual reduction of HFCs by 85% over 15 years from the baseline level.

That measure was seen as a rare bipartisan climate victory, promoted by Sens. John Kennedy (R-La.) And Tom Carper (D-Del.).

One of the reasons such a measure may have been able to gain bipartisan traction is the support of the industry, which has already been in transition to alternatives.

“The ratification of the treaty sends the signal to the rest of the world that we agree with this gradual reduction of HFCs and removes a barrier to competition for our domestic manufacturers,” said Chris Jahn, president and CEO of the American Chemistry Council. a trading group representing chemical manufacturers.

Wednesday’s action was also bipartisan, with 21 Republicans joining the Democrats in supporting it, including GOP Sens. Roy Blunt (Mo.), John Boozman (Ark.), Richard Burr (NC), Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.), Bill Cassidy (La.), Susan Collins (Maine), Joni Ernst (Iowa), Lindsey Graham (SC), Chuck Grassley (Iowa), Cindy Hyde-Smith (Miss.), John Kennedy (La.), Mitch McConnell (Ky.), Jerry Moran (Kan.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Rob Portman ( Ohio), Mitt Romney (Utah), Marco Rubio (Fla.), Ben Sasse (Neb.), Thom Tillis (NC), Roger Wicker (Miss.) And Todd Young (Ind.).

And while the US is already moving towards the treaty’s goals, University of Michigan environmental policy professor Barry Rabe said Wednesday’s move could give the US more global climate credibility.

“Just in the early years of this decade, the US has really started to move from a global lag position, certainly on HFCs and certainly on methane, to a more leadership role and I think that would be further cemented or underlined by Kigali ratification. “said Rabe.

He also said it is important to maintain credibility for trading partners in the future.

“There is a question of how the world would feel – trade partners would feel – about dealing with the United States for their alternatives if they could get them from another country that produces HFC alternatives,” Rabe said.

The Senate vote does not automatically ratify the treaty, which must also obtain formal ratification from President Biden, who supports it.

In signing the deal, the United States will join nearly 140 other countries in a promise to gradually reduce HFCs.

Its approval also opens up some commercial markets for US manufacturers.

Under the agreement, parties to the treaty will be prohibited from trading HFCs with countries that are not parties to it, so without signing up, the US would struggle to trade in HFCs that are still on the market as they gradually shrink.

“The ratification of Kigali will ensure that American companies will continue to have access to international refrigerant markets for a long time,” Carper said in a speech.

Some Republicans still opposed the treaty, however, arguing that it is too soft on China.

“For too long, Communist China has been granted ridiculous exemptions and access to valuable US taxpayer dollars due to its false classification as a ‘developing nation’. It is time to end this failed and meek approach NOW, “said Senator Rick Scott (R-Fla.) Said in a statement.

HFCs were introduced as an alternative to chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, which were depleting the ozone layer. And while the move addressed the immediate problem, they also contributed significantly to global warming.

The Kigali Amendment is an amendment to the Montreal Protocol, an earlier treaty calling for the phasing out of CFCs.

Updated at 16:43

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