News

Bipartisan U.S. Congress agrees to another global climate change treaty

Just over a month after passing one of the largest climate spending packages in American history, the U.S. Senate hit another environmental milestone on Wednesday.

Senators ratified the Kigali Agreement, an international promise to phase out dangerous chemicals commonly used in air conditioning and refrigerators, also known as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).

The rare bipartisan deal passed in the Senate 69 votes to 27 and comes five weeks after Congress passed the Inflation Reduction Act, which injects $370 billion into tackling energy and climate change issues.

Majority leader Chuck Schumer said after the vote that passing both through Congress was the “strongest one-two punch against climate change any Congress has ever taken.”

The Kigali Agreement is part of the 1985 Montreal Protocol, a treaty designed to protect the ozone layer.

The widespread use of hydrofluorocarbons came about in the late 1980s as an alternative to chlorofluorocarbons(CFCs), another refrigerant widely acknowledged to have destroyed parts of the ozone layer. The ozone layer is part of the earth’s atmosphere that blocks damaging ultraviolet rays from the sun.

But HFCs are an extremely potent greenhouse gas that can trap thousands of times more heat than carbon dioxide, a byproduct of burning natural gas, coal and oil.

Scientists believe that eliminating it from use will knock 1 degree Fahrenheit off the global temperature by the end of the century. According to federal government records, the Earth’s temperature has increased by 2 degrees Fahrenheit since the pre-industrial era between 1880 and 1900

While Congress had already agreed to reduce the use of HFCs by 85% over the next 15 years, the treaty’s ratification is a symbolic sign that Congress may be shifting its historically soft environmental position.

Christopher Harress

Christopher Harress | charress@reckonmedia.com

Climate change reporter on the east and Gulf coasts.

The Reckon Report.
Sign up to receive the Reckon Report newsletter in your inbox every Tuesday.