Reviews | The Senate should ratify the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocols

Rarely does a climate change action win the wholehearted support of industry groups, environmental activists and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. Ratification of the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol would strengthen American manufacturing and show the United States’ commitment to climate leadership – a real win-win. Yet even the most innocuous climate proposals tend to die in Congress, as politicians look for opportunities to score points with their base by indulging in climate demagoguery. For once, that might not happen – and on a measure that promises to do a lot of good, as the Senate prepares to vote this week on the Kigali Amendment.

The Montreal Protocol, signed in 1987 and ratified by the United States a year later, was a landmark agreement between world governments to phase out the production and consumption of ozone-depleting substances, particularly chlorofluorocarbons. used in household appliances such as refrigerators and air conditioners. A related class of substances, hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), have emerged as a popular substitute. Although these chemicals do not damage the ozone layer, they act as extremely potent greenhouse gases, trapping heat in the atmosphere 1,000 times more effectively than carbon dioxide.

After more than a decade of talks – and a significant commitment from President Barack Obama – global negotiators agreed in 2016 to an amendment to the Montreal Protocol that would phase out HFCs and, in doing so, prevent up to 0.5 degrees Celsius of global warming. The Kigali Amendment, named after the Rwandan capital where it was developed, was backed by the chemical industry, which had already invested heavily in alternatives. American manufacturers hoped to leverage their research and development strengths to roll out next-generation products and outpace competitors in overseas markets. A 2018 report by the Alliance for Responsible Atmospheric Policy, a trade association, estimated that it could generate more than 30,000 jobs in the United States.

The amendment has since been ratified or accepted by 137 countries, including China and India. Yet US ratification has stalled under the Trump administration, which was hostile to both multilateral treaties and climate action. President Biden revived the effort last year, sending the amendment to the Senate for ratification in November. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously approved it in May and Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (DN.Y.) put it up for a vote this week. Full passage of the amendment would require the approval of two-thirds of the senators present.

It should be obvious. The Kigali Amendment’s phase-out schedule is already part of US policy: the US Innovation and Manufacturing Act of 2020 directed the Environmental Protection Agency to set new rules on HFCs, and the EPA issued a rule last year that would bring the United States into compliance with the amendment. But the Senate’s approval would ensure the country avoids trade restrictions for non-ratifying countries, which are set to begin in 2033, and protect US companies’ access to expanding international markets.

More immediately, enshrining the international protocol would signal that the United States is committed to international climate policy – ​​and demonstrate that the commitment is at least somewhat bipartisan. It would give the United States more credibility as it urges other nations to make their own climate pledges, which is the only way to fight climate change. The Senate should not hesitate to ratify a measure that is good for the economy, the environment and the global leadership of the United States.

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