Senators vote 69-27 in favour of ratifying the 2016 Kigali Amendment, which would accelerate global efforts to develop alternatives to HFCs for use in heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration.

Kigali Amendment has support from US industry, which sees it as an opportunity to manufacture and sell its non-HFC refrigerants to the world.
Kigali Amendment has support from US industry, which sees it as an opportunity to manufacture and sell its non-HFC refrigerants to the world. (AP Archive)

US senators have voted to sign on to a global agreement to drastically cut the use of a group of powerful greenhouse gasses commonly found in refrigerators and air conditioners.

The Senate on Wednesday voted 69-27 in favour of ratifying a treaty signed in Kigali in 2016, which is expected to prevent up to 0.5 degrees Celsius (33 degrees Fahrenheit) of planetary heating by the end of this century if similar commitments are made worldwide.

President Joe Biden hailed the vote as a "bipartisan win for American workers and industry" that would create an estimated 33,000 domestic manufacturing jobs.

"The United States is back at the table leading the fight against climate change," he said in a statement.

The super-pollutants, known as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), can be hundreds to thousands of times more potent than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere, exacerbating the climate crisis.

The Kigali Amendment will phase down HFCs by 85 percent below baseline levels within the next 15 years, according to experts.

It has support from the US industry, which sees it as an opportunity to manufacture and sell its non-HFC refrigerants to the world.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called the vote "one of the most important bipartisan achievements to date."

"By one measure, ratifying the Kigali Amendment will generate nearly $39 billion in investments here in America in the next five years, when combined with other steps we've taken to transition away from HFCs," he said.

"It will create tens of thousands of new American jobs and increase US heating, ventilation, and refrigeration exports by 25 percent, in a few short years, by 2027."

US actions will encourage others

The Paris climate accord of 2015 calls for the world to hold heating to 1.5 degrees Celsius to avert a future filled with extreme weather events, desertification, mass species extinction and food insecurity.

"By ratifying the Kigali Amendment, the US is now aligned with 137 other countries working to phase down climate-warming super pollutants and avoid additional emissions that contribute to climate change," said Dan Lashof, director of the WRI climate think tank in the United States.

"This action by the US will encourage other countries to join the agreement and send a strong signal to the rest of the world that the nation is serious about addressing the climate crisis and investing in a cleaner, more sustainable economy."

HFCs were not always considered bad news.

They were first introduced in the 1990s, before their powerful heat-trapping properties were understood, to replace chlorofluorocarbons that had been found to erode the ozone layer.

Source: AFP