US Senate Ratifies Kigali Amendment to Montreal Protocol

Yesterday (September 21), the U.S. Senate, with strong bipartisan support, gave advice and consent to ratification of the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. The United States will soon join 136 other countries and the European Union that have already ratified the Kigali Amendment.

This is the first international climate treaty to be ratified by the Senate in three decades. The Kigali Amendment calls for a gradual reduction in the consumption and production of hydrofluorocarbons (“HFCs”), which are potent greenhouse gases. Its global implementation should avoid as much as half a degree Celsius of warming by the end of the century.

The U.S. environmental and business communities strongly support U.S. ratification of the Kigali Amendment, which will help to ensure U.S. industry remains a global leader in the development, manufacturing, production, and deployment of HFC alternatives. Industry estimates indicate that U.S. ratification will support 33,000 new U.S. manufacturing jobs and generate $12.5 billion in new investments in the U.S. economy over the next decade.

Ratification of the Kigali Amendment will be an asset for innovative American companies that have developed alternatives to HFCs and will help them export U.S. technology to overseas markets.

The Montreal Protocol, which also regulates the production and consumption of ozone depleting substances, is one of the most successful international environmental agreements. It is expected to restore the stratospheric ozone layer by 2065, avoiding 443 million cases of skin cancer, approximately 2.3 million skin cancer deaths, and more than 63 million cases of cataracts in the United States alone, with even greater benefits worldwide.

Originally approved in the 1980s, the landmark Montreal Protocol successfully brought down emissions of chemicals that harmed the ozone layer, but in turn prompted manufacturers to switch to a new family of chemicals — hydrofluorocarbons — that do not harm the ozone layer but are potent greenhouse gases. Today, HFCs are used in refrigerators and air conditioners, as well as foam and aerosol products.

Depending on its makeup, a pound of HFCs can have as much warming potential as hundreds or even tens of thousands of pounds of carbon dioxide. That makes capping their use a critical part of combatting near-term warming; the Kigali Amendment will stave off 0.5 degrees Celsius of warming this century, according to the Biden administration.  The amendment requires countries to reduce their use of HFCs by 85 percent over 15 years. It was negotiated at an international gathering in Rwanda in 2016.

The US Congress already did the initial hard work in late 2020, when the Senate reached a deal on legislation empowering EPA to more forcefully regulate HFCs in order to meet Kigali’s goal.  Since then, major business interests (including the HVACR industry) have lobbied for ratification, partly because U.S. manufacturers are poised to play a leading role in selling next-generation refrigerants with much less climate impact. Not ratifying the treaty also would have led to trade restrictions in the 2030s.

“The Senate is signaling that Kigali counts by ratifying the amendment,” Stephen Yurek, president and CEO of the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI), said in a statement. “It 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.”

US President Joe Biden said in a statement “The United States is back at the table leading the fight against climate change. As more countries join the United States in ratifying this amendment, we can prevent up to half a degree Celsius of warming this century, a significant contribution to fighting climate change and protecting communities from more extreme impacts.”

For additional information, visit the US State Department’s website about the Montreal Protocol and Kigali Amendment here.

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