Biden Aims to Join Global Pact to Slash HFC Super Pollutants
(Bloomberg) -- The Biden administration is taking steps to have the U.S. join at least 124 other nations in pledging to scale down the use of super-polluting greenhouse gases widely found in refrigerators and air conditioners, according to two people familiar with the move.
President Joe Biden sent the Senate the Kigali amendment to the Montreal Protocol on Tuesday, clearing the way for the chamber’s review of that international pact to phase down the production and consumption of hydrofluorocarbons.
“The Kigali amendment has strong support from the U.S. business community and nongovernmental organizations,” Biden said in a formal message to the Senate. “Ratification by the United States would advance U.S. interests in remaining a leader in the development and deployment of HFC alternatives, ensuring access to rapidly growing refrigeration and cooling markets overseas and stimulating U.S. investment, exports and job growth in this sector.”
HFCs were designed decades ago as a less-damaging replacement for another class of chemicals -- chlorofluorocarbons -- that both depleted the ozone layer and trapped heat in the atmosphere. While HFCs are better in both respects, they are still a powerful agent of global warming, thousands of times more powerful than carbon dioxide.
David Doniger, a senior strategic director in the Climate & Clean Energy program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, called on the Senate to move quickly.
“Phasing down these harmful chemicals will create good-paying jobs and open export markets for manufacturers of new and safer products, while curbing a potent contributor to climate change” Doniger said in an emailed news release.
Biden in January directed the State Department to submit the Kigali amendment to the Senate, though the paperwork necessary for the chamber to give its “advice and consent” on joining the Kigali amendment took longer than expected.
Senate support of the amendment to the 1987 Montreal Protocol would allow the U.S. to join more than 120 other nations in agreeing to reduce hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, highly potent greenhouse gases that have been used for decades in vending machines, refrigerators, asthma inhalers and air conditioners. Under the accord, which was agreed upon in 2016 and ratified by China in June, countries are seeking to reduce HFC use 80% by 2047 - potentially avoiding as much as a half degree Celsius in additional warming by the end of the century.
U.S. ratification would buttress the country’s greenhouse gas-cutting pledges at a critical time after the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow. And it could benefit the makers of HFC substitutes such as Honeywell International Inc. and the Chemours Co.
The move won applause Tuesday from the Chamber of Commerce and the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute, whose members include Johnson Controls Inc., Schneider Electric USA Inc. and Trane Technologies.
The Senate “has consistently shown broad, business-friendly, bipartisan support for the Montreal Protocol and all its prior amendments,” said Stephen Yurek, AHRI’s president.
The Kigali amendment has enjoyed strong bipartisan support on Capitol Hill, evidenced by the collaboration last year of environmentalists, industry groups and lawmakers in enacting a provision directing the Environmental Protection Agency to implement an 85% reduction of HFC production and consumption over the next 15 years.
The EPA proposed an HFC rule in keeping with that directive in May, and it finalized the regulation in September.
Still, opponents of the Kigali amendment, including the right-leaning Competitive Enterprise Institute, have accused the manufacturers of chemicals that would take the place of HFCs of seeking the change in order to sell more expensive products. One such substitute, called HFO-1234yf, costs nearly 10 times more than the HFC it would replace in vehicle air conditioners and other equipment, the institute said in a blog post.
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