The United States will phase out HFCs, a polluting compound found in air conditioners and refrigerators: NPR

In October 2016, in Kigali, Rwanda, countries around the world agreed to phase out a category of dangerous greenhouse gases widely used in refrigerators and air conditioners. In 2022, the United States took steps to formally ratify the agreement.

Cyril Ndegeya/AFP via Getty Images


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Cyril Ndegeya/AFP via Getty Images


In October 2016, in Kigali, Rwanda, countries around the world agreed to phase out a category of dangerous greenhouse gases widely used in refrigerators and air conditioners. In 2022, the United States took steps to formally ratify the agreement.

Cyril Ndegeya/AFP via Getty Images

Almost six years after the The United States helped broker it, the Senate is set to ratify a global climate treaty that would officially phase out the use of hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, industrial chemicals commonly found in air conditioners and refrigerators, foam insulation and pharmaceutical inhalers.

Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the Senate will vote this week to advance the Kigali Amendment, an addition to the Montreal Protocol’s climate treaty aimed at dramatically reducing global use of the compounds.

“HFCs need to be addressed as soon as possible because they are thousands – thousands – times more harmful to our atmosphere than carbon dioxide,” Schumer told the Senate last week.

These compounds were widely adopted in the 1980s and 1990s to replace another family of chemicals, chlorofluorocarbons or CFCs, which damage the Earth’s ozone layer. But after the switch, HFCs became one of the most potent greenhouse gases.

Successful phase-out of HFCs globally could reduce warming by up to 0.5 degrees Celsius (or about 1 degree Fahrenheit) by the end of the century, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. As the world scrambles to limit this century’s warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius to try to avoid several catastrophic tipping points, half a degree can make a major difference, scientists have said.

The United States is already taking steps to phase out HFCs

HFC reduction is an area of ​​climate policy that environmentalists, manufacturers and politicians tend to agree on.

“Stakeholders from businesses to environmental groups have urged the Senate to ratify the heavily bipartisan Kigali Amendment,” said Stephen Yurek, president and CEO of the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute, a commercial organization.

Republicans supported the gradual reduction as good for business, while Democrats and climate activists praise it as good climate policy. The United States participated in negotiating the terms of the amendment, which was signed in Kigali, Rwanda, in 2016, but never ratified it. More than 130 countries have signed on in one way or another, according to the United Nations.

The United States has already taken steps to respect the provisions of the amendment before ratifying it. In December 2020, Congress passed the American Innovation and Manufacturing (AIM) Act as part of an appropriations bill. It empowers the EPA to mandate an 85% phase-down of HFC production and consumption over 15 years.

Industry groups such as the Alliance for Responsible Atmospheric Policy said the AIM Act is important, but ratification of the amendment is still needed to make U.S. companies truly competitive.

“It’s an improvement in your market access. These are very competitive industries globally, with China being the fiercest,” said executive director Kevin Fay.

His group estimated that ratifying the amendment would “increase U.S. manufacturing jobs by 33,000 by 2027, increase exports by $5 billion, reduce imports by nearly $7 billion, and improve HVACR.” [Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration] balance of trade,” ensuring that U.S. companies will adopt the standards needed to sell products in countries that have already ratified the measure.

On the climate side, there are signs that commitments to reduce the use of HFCs are not being met. A study published in Nature Communications in 2021 found that atmospheric levels of the most potent HFC, HFC-23, should have been much lower than scientists detected if China and India, the countries responsible for manufacturing of the majority of the compound that converts to HFC-23, had accurately reported their reductions.

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