Senate reaches rare bipartisan deal on deal to curb potent greenhouse gases

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In a major victory for climate advocates, the United States Senate has ratified the Kigali amendment, which experts say could significantly reduce global warming in the coming decades.

The vote — signed by a large bipartisan group of senators — completes the US deal with former President Barack Obama’s 2016 deal.

The amendment will phase out the global use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), chemicals commonly 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 and leading the fight against climate change,” President Biden said in a statement on the amendment’s approval.

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

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Over time, those chemicals were replaced by HFCs which, while not harmful to the ozone layer, can be potent, planet-warming gases. Many HFCs, per pound, can warm the planet 100 to 11,000 times more than CO2, the most abundant greenhouse gas causing the climate crisis.

Since the agreement was an amendment to a global treaty, more than two-thirds of senators had to vote yes to vote under the U.S. Constitution. The final vote was 69-27 in favor, with some Republicans joining Democrats to vote yes.

Under the agreement, HFCs will be phased out worldwide in the coming decades. Experts have said this alone could prevent warming by up to 0.5 degrees Celsius (0.9 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2100.

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The 2015 Paris Agreement has attempted to limit global warming to about 1.5°C — and the climate crisis has already pushed temperatures 1.1-1.2°C above the 19th-century average.

HFCs will be replaced by alternative chemicals in the coming decades, with faster timelines for some wealthier countries.

Many US corporate interests supported the amendment, which likely contributed to a more bipartisan consensus on the agreement. The American Chemistry Council, a trade group for the US chemical industry, welcomed the passage in a statement Wednesday, saying it will help create jobs in manufacturing.

A number of industry groups, gathered at the US Chamber of Commerce, had written a letter in June urging the Senate to approve the amendment.

Wednesday’s vote was also welcomed by environmental groups who welcomed the climate impact.

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“Today’s Senate bipartisan vote makes the United States a full partner in the global phasing out of the powerful climate pollutants called hydrofluorocarbons that help cause severe storms, floods, heat and wildfires in the U.S. and around the world. world,” the nonprofit Natural That said David Doniger of the Resources Defense Council in a statement.

“With bipartisan support, the Senate has committed to an international climate policy that phases out a superpollutant while supporting U.S. manufacturing,” Carol Andress of the nonprofit Environmental Defense Fund said in a statement. “The United States is already the world leader in creating climate-friendly alternatives to HFCs, and this move will help remove potential barriers to exporting them.”

In addition to the US, 136 other countries, plus the European Union, have ratified the agreement.

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