In a rare display of bipartisanship, the U.S. Senate voted 69-27 in favor of ratifying a key international climate agreement aimed at curbing global warming. The Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, which has been ratified by 137 other countries so far, ends the use of climate-warming hydrofluorocarbons that are 1,000 times more potent than carbon dioxide in warming the atmosphere. This is the first international climate treaty that the U.S. has joined in 30 years.
The Kigali Agreement was established in Kigali, Rwanda in 2016 to phase out HFCs, which have been the replacements for CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons) in air conditioners and refrigerators. CFCs were found to be depleting the ozone layers that protects the earth from harmful ultraviolet rays. HFCs do not deplete the ozone layer, but they have been a significant contributor to global warming.
The U.S. ratification of the treaty is largely symbolic. The American Innovation and Manufacturing Act, passed by Congress in 2020, gave the EPA authority to regulate HFCs and the agency has already been doing so. However, the Senate action shows that the U.S. is back on the international climate bandwagon.
Failure to ratify the Kigali Amendment would have closed segments of the chemical and manufacturing industries to U.S. producers after 2023 because the Montreal Protocol prohibits trade with countries not party to it or its amendments.
Environmental advocates are hopeful that the U.S. can move forward on other climate actions. A next step would be to focus on methane, the second leading driver of climate change after carbon dioxide.
Photo, posted June 13, 2017, courtesy of UNIDO via Flickr.