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U.S. Officials Wary of United Nations Ozone Treaty Negotiations in Ecuador

The 30th meeting of the parties to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (Montreal Protocol) is being held in Quito Ecuador through November 9th. This 1987 United Nations treaty banned a number of compounds widely used in refrigeration and air conditioning on the grounds that they leak into the air and contribute to depletion of the earth’s ozone layer. The phaseout of these compounds is nearly complete, but the hundreds of U.S. and international bureaucrats in attendance at Quito have embraced global warming as a new reason to stay in business.

Topping the meeting agenda will be the 2016 Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol (Kigali Amendment), the most recent addition to the treaty, which is scheduled to go into force January 1, 2019. This amendment will expand the list of restricted compounds to include ones believed to contribute to global warming. Ironically, many of these putative greenhouse gases came into widespread use as substitutes for the ozone-depleting refrigerants that were phased out under the original treaty. They include the compounds used in home and vehicle air conditioners, refrigerators, as well as the commercial equipment relied upon by millions of small businesses like restaurants and convenience stores. The Kigali Amendment will raise the cost of refrigeration and air-conditioning—some types of equipment designed to comply with Kigali’s requirements are already available and can cost up to $1,000 more than comparable conventional models.

There are less than two months to go before the Kigali Amendment goes into effect for the nations that are on board, and thus many implementation details are being discussed at Quito. This includes funding for developing nations to assist them in transitioning to more expensive equipment necessitated by the Kigali Amendment. There are also safety issues to work through, since the Kigali Amendment may result in the introduction of flammable refrigerants in homes and workplaces.

President Trump has not yet submitted the Kigali Amendment to the Senate for the required ratification, and there are a number of reasons why he should never do so. First and foremost, the Kigali Amendment will result in costlier refrigeration and air conditioning equipment for consumers and small businesses and be a net drag on the economy and job creation. Further, it could put the U.S. economy at a competitive disadvantage, in part because China and many other nations have weaker requirements under the treaty and frequently disregard the ones they do have.