The Senate voted 69–27 on Sept. 21 to allow the US to join an international treaty to curb the production and use of hydrofluorocarbons.
HFCs are industrial gases used in a slew of applications, including as refrigerants in air conditioners and freezers. They are potent greenhouse gases.
In late 2020, Congress passed a law that authorizes the federal government to meet the terms of the pact, the 2016 Kigali amendment to the Montreal Protocol. Using that law, the Environmental Protection Agency issued a regulation last year to reduce allowable US production and use of HFCs to 15% of 2011–13 average levels by 2036. Such reduction will meet Kigali amendment requirements.
But because the Senate had not ratified the Kigali deal, the US could not participate as a full treaty partner in international talks related to the pact. Almost a year ago, President Joe Biden asked the Senate to formally endorse the agreement. The Constitution requires at least 67 senators to vote for a treaty to ratify it. Because Democrats currently hold a single-vote majority in the Senate, approval of the amendment required support of some Republicans.
The US chemical industry’s biggest trade association—the American Chemistry Council (ACC)—as well as environmental advocates and refrigeration equipment makers backed ratification of the Kigali pact.
The Senate’s move “represents an important step forward in strengthening U.S. competitiveness and addressing climate change,” ACC president Chris Jahn says in a statement. Ratification helps open export markets for chemicals that are alternatives to HFCs, he says.
“The Senate has committed to international climate policy that phases down a super-pollutant while bolstering US manufacturing,” Carol Andress, associate vice president, congressional affairs and climate policy at the Environmental Defense Fund, says in a statement.