Op eds

This op-ed by Sens. John Kennedy (R-La.) and Tom Carper (D-Del.) first appeared in the Washington Times on April 27, 2022.

Win-win opportunities aren’t easy to find in politics, but sometimes single solutions exist to help tackle several challenges. Cleaning up super-polluting hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) is one of those rare solutions that will boost our economy and help protect our planet.

HFCs are the coolants and refrigerants that keep our homes cool and our groceries cold in the fridge. They are found in almost every household in America—but they have a global warming effect thousands of times stronger than carbon dioxide.

For years, American companies have been at the forefront of developing HFC alternatives, so by phasing down HFCs we help promote U.S. leadership in the innovation and manufacturing of new climate-safe products. That’s what brought us together to write and pass the American Innovation and Manufacturing (AIM) Act in 2020, a law that phases down the production and use of HFCs by 85% over the next 15 years. Transitioning away from HFCs drives more investments in American-made technologies that are better for the environment, cheaper for consumers, and good for the economy.

The AIM Act is expected to create 33,000 new manufacturing jobs and help more than 130,000 Americans keep their current jobs over the next five years in communities across the country including our home states of Louisiana and Delaware. In addition, using these next generation coolants is expected to save American businesses and consumers billions in energy costs over the next 10 years. That’s why the AIM Act won broad support from hundreds of businesses, industry leaders, and environmental groups.

This manufacturing boost will also be good for Louisiana, where plants in Geismar, Baton Rouge, and St. Gabriel could create more jobs and save hundreds of existing jobs by transitioning to production of safer coolants. And Louisiana companies involved in the heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration (HVACR) industry could benefit, as well. The international HVACR market could more than double over the next decade, and Louisiana’s HVACR industry can produce appliances that don’t rely on HFCs—appliances that we could then export to make the most out of this industry’s growth.

More than a thousand miles away, in Delaware, thousands of workers are employed by manufacturers of climate-friendly HFC alternatives. Yet, the environmental benefits of the AIM Act will benefit all who live in the First State. As the lowest lying state in the nation, Delaware is already experiencing the economic impacts of rising seas and other climate-related events. Reducing HFCs is a powerful tool to use in tackling climate change. Coupled with international efforts, the AIM Act could help avoid a global temperature increase of 0.5C by the end of the century.

But our work isn’t done yet. While the AIM Act has helped position America to reap the domestic fruits of transitioning away from HFCs, it can’t ensure that we’ll keep beating competitors (and super-polluters) like China and India unless America is a full partner in international efforts to phase out these substances.

In order to see the full economic and environmental benefits of transitioning away from HFCs, the Senate must now ratify the Kigali Amendment. By building on the successes of the AIM Act, ratifying the Kigali Amendment will expand the global market for American-made technologies and safeguard U.S. investments.

More than 170 countries support the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, which obliges its signers to gradually phase down their HFC usage by 85%. China and India have both ratified the amendment. Starting in 2033, the Kigali Amendment would impose trade restrictions between countries that comply with the HFC phasedown agreement and those that do not.

The AIM Act is already bringing the U.S. into alignment with the Kigali Amendment’s plan to phase down HFCs. It only makes economic sense that the Senate now ratify this agreement to ensure that the U.S. can capitalize on the success of the AIM Act instead of unnecessarily limiting our trade partners and giving our competitors—or even adversaries like China—a leg up at the expense of hardworking Americans. Both sides of the aisle can agree that the U.S. should lead the world in exporting the goods that use next-generation coolants.

The Senate should ratify this amendment for the same reasons that Congress passed the AIM Act. Formalizing America’s support for the Kigali Amendment would reduce greenhouse gas emissions, boost U.S. exports, strengthen America’s manufacturing industry, and create more jobs for workers here at home. What’s not to like about that?

Senator Tom Carper, Delaware Democrat, serves as Chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee as well as a member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and Finance Committees. In public service for more than 45 years, he served five terms in the U.S. House where he earned a reputation as a results-oriented centrist, and was elected as Delaware’s 78th governor, serving two terms in that role. Senator John Kennedy, Louisiana Republican, serves on the Appropriations, Banking, Budget, Judiciary, and Small Business Committees and as the top Republican of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development. Prior to his election to the Senate, he served as state treasurer of Louisiana for five terms, secretary of the Department of Revenue, as well as special counsel to and secretary of Gov. Roemer’s cabinet.