Senate reaches rare bipartisan agreement on deal to cut powerful greenhouse gases

Senate reaches rare bipartisan agreement on deal to cut powerful greenhouse gases

In a major victory for climate advocates, the US Senate has ratified the Kigali Amendment, which experts say could significantly reduce planetary warming in the coming decades.

The vote – signed by a large bipartisan group of senators – finalizes the US agreement to the deal made by former President Barack Obama in 2016.

The amendment will phase out the worldwide use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), chemicals often used in refrigeration and air conditioning. HFCs are an extremely potent greenhouse gas with the ability to warm the planet thousands of times more than carbon dioxide (CO2) per pound.

“The United States is back at the table leading the fight against climate change,” President Biden said in a statement on the amendment’s passage.

The agreement is an amendment to the Montreal Protocol from the 1980s, which helped patch the hole in the ozone layer by phasing out a group of ozone-depleting chemicals called chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), once often used. in refrigeration and aerosol sprays.

Over time, these chemicals were replaced by HFCs which, while not damaging the ozone layer, can be powerful gases that warm the planet. Many HFCs, per pound, can heat the planet between 100 and 11,000 times more than CO2, the most common greenhouse gas driving the climate crisis.

As the agreement was an amendment to a global treaty, it required more than two-thirds of senators to vote yes in order to pass under the US Constitution. The final vote was 69 to 27 in favour, with some Republicans joining Democrats in voting yes.

The agreement will phase out HFCs over the next few decades around the world. Experts said this alone could prevent up to 0.5 degrees Celsius (0.9 degrees Fahrenheit) of warming by 2100.

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The 2015 Paris Agreement tried to limit global warming to around 1.5°C – and the climate crisis has already raised temperatures 1.1 to 1.2°C above 19th century averages.

This is a breaking story, more to follow

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