President Joe Biden is asking the US Senate to endorse an international pact for phasing down production of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).
HFCs are synthetic compounds widely used as refrigerants in air conditioners and freezers and to puff up plastic into foam insulation, among other applications. They are potent greenhouse gases.
Almost a year ago, Congress passed a law that gives the federal government authority to implement the terms of the agreement, the 2016 Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol. The Environmental Protection Agency relied on that authority when it issued a regulation in September to ratchet down domestic production of HFCs .
Despite this action, the US cannot participate in international talks as a partner to the Kigali deal until the Senate consents, which requires two-thirds of senators to vote in favor of the agreement. Senate approval is required for the US to join any international treaty.
Fluorocarbon producers making alternatives to HFCs and manufacturers of equipment that uses these new chemicals want the US to become a partner in the Kigali deal, as do environmental advocates.
In a Nov. 16 message to the Senate, Biden says ratifying the Kigali Amendment “would advance US 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 US investment, exports, and job growth in this sector.”
The lawmaker who will shepherd the Kigali Amendment through the Senate is Bob Menendez (D-NJ), chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Menendez says in a statement that he believes lawmakers in the chamber will give strong bipartisan support to the Kigali Amendment.
The international HFC pact, completed in Rwanda’s capital city, amends the 1989 Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. HFCs don’t erode stratospheric ozone, but they were marketed to replace chemicals, notably chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), that do. When countries negotiated to reduce worldwide production and use of HFCs, they chose to do so under the Montreal Protocol instead of the global climate change treaty.