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Ratifying the Kigali HFC Amendment: A No-brainer for the U.S.

By Christina Starr, EIA Climate Policy Analyst

The media is abuzz with speculation about whether the Montreal Protocol's Kigali HFC Amendment agreed to earlier this month will be sent to the U.S. Senate for formal ratification, or like the Paris Agreement, will be considered within the scope of authority of the Executive Branch to ratify and implement.

It’s still too soon to assume an outcome as the White House’s legal experts consider the right approach, but as the conversation plays out, we shouldn’t lose sight of the big picture: U.S. ratification and implementation of this agreement is an absolute no-brainer for the climate as well as the U.S. economy, whether it comes in the form of a Senate vote, or an Executive Order to be implemented using existing mechanisms.

Beyond the agreement’s extraordinary climate benefits of avoiding as much as 70 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent and nearly half a degree Celsius of warming globally by the end of the century, it will also greatly benefit industry, workers, and consumers here in the United States.

Here are some key reasons why the Kigali HFC Amendment deserves broad bipartisan support if it goes to the Senate for a vote or celebration if it is adopted by Executive Order:

1. Has broad stakeholder support from companies and environmentalists alike
Major companies with operations and manufacturing plants in the United States have supported the global HFC phase-down for years and have participated actively at every step along the way to reaching an agreement. These companies have already invested significantly in voluntary commitments to research and develop the next generation of HFC-free alternatives, many of which will be manufactured here in the United States. The new alternatives, along with reducing emissions of climate-damaging gases, would be more energy efficient and could create a new market for American businesses.

2. Clear market signal will increase investment and create jobs
Ratifying the Amendment will encourage additional investment and high-tech jobs in the United States, including in states like Texas and Louisiana. U.S. based manufacturers of refrigeration and HVAC equipment, for which there is a growing demand in the United States and globally, will need this market signal to move forward with replacing HFCs with low-global warming potential (GWP) alternatives in their new equipment models. With a clear change to the market and level global playing field created by ratifying this agreement, companies like Johnson Controls, Trane, United Technologies, Danfoss, True Manufacturing, Hillphoenix, and others that have been developing HFC-free technologies, can confidently move forward with plans to invest substantially more in expanding manufacturing and becoming global leaders in new refrigeration and air conditioning technologies.

3. Significant potential downside of not ratifying the agreement
If the United States does not ratify the HFC Amendment, it could negatively impact the U.S. economy in at least two ways. First, by sending a less clear market signal to companies operating and retailing in the United States, and second by limiting U.S. trade with countries that do ratify. Parties to the Montreal Protocol are bound by so-called, “non-party trade provisions” that require them to restrict their trade in HFCs with non-parties. In other words, if the United States does not ratify the amendment, it could be blocked from importing or exporting HFCs, isolating itself from global trade in these substances during the gradual phase down of their use.

If the Kigali HFC Amendment is sent to the U.S. Senate for consent, it will need the broad support from Senators in both political parties to reach a two-thirds majority. For Senators on both sides of the isle, ratifying the agreement should come as common sense as it’s in the best interest of the American public and is a decision that rises above any political differences on the broader issue of climate change. With both a near term economic upside in the coming decade and longer term climate benefits for the coming century, here’s to hoping that logic, rather than political brinkmanship, will prevail.

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