President Barack Obama just struck a major, and binding deal with 170 countries to reduce global carbon emission effects down by more than 25% from current levels of greenhouse gas pollution. Secretary of State John Kerry concluded the global agreement today in Kigali, the capital of Rawanda in Southern Africa, telling the New York Times, “It is likely the single most important step we could take at this moment to limit the warming of our planet and limit the warming for generations to come.”
President Obama said the modification of the 1987 Montreal Protocol treaty banning the refrigerant CFC which has created the ozone hole in our atmosphere represents, “an ambitious and far-reaching solution to this looming crisis.” The global scope of the deal, and mandatory compliance to ban HFCs – hydro fluorocarbons used in AC and refrigerators – is a reminder of the smart diplomacy promised by the Democratic administration in the past two elections, as The Times reports:
Negotiators from more than 170 countries on Saturday reached a legally binding accord to counter climate change by cutting the worldwide use of a powerful planet-warming chemical used in air-conditioners and refrigerators.
Given the heat-trapping power of HFCs, scientists say that the Kigali accord will stave off an increase of atmospheric temperatures of nearly one degree Fahrenheit.
That represents a major step toward averting an atmospheric temperature increase of 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, the point at which scientific studies say the world will be locked into a future of rising sea levels, severe droughts and flooding, widespread food and water shortages and more powerful hurricanes.
Over all, the deal is expected to lead to the reduction of the equivalent of 70 billion tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere — about two times the carbon pollution produced annually by the entire world. The Kigali accord is “much, much, much stronger than Paris,” said Durwood Zaelke, the president of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development, a research organization. “This is a mandatory treaty. Governments are obligated to comply.”
The Montreal Protocol was originally ratified to limit CFC’s, and contained a provision to allow for regulation of the replacement refrigerants skating nations agreed to limit during the Reagan-era. President Obama spent seven years negotiating the treaty change, and in 2013 made a major preliminary breakthrough by convincing Chinese president Xi Jinping to prioritize the agreement. Since then, Chinese and American chemical companies have repositioned themselves to produce greater amounts of gas to replace HFC refrigerants.
It’s a considered a relatively narrow agreement, but the outsized impact expected is because these HFC gasses literally cause 1,000 times the amount of heat-trapping energy as carbon. The Kigali agreement creates three tracks to satisfy nations who suffer from lack of cooling and in hot climates to finish compliance in 30 years, and for most first world nations to start compliance in two years and finish in 20 years.
“It is the biggest thing we can do in one giant swoop,” said Secretary of State Kerry from Rwanda. It’s also another brilliant maneuver executed by the Obama Administration’s famous “long game” approach to managing our nation’s course in the face of an intractable, self-destructive opposition party.
Kudos to President Obama for giving people living at sea level hope that their way of life can be preserved for future generations.
Grant Stern is the Executive Editor of Occupy Democrats and published author. His new Meet the Candidates 2020 book series is distributed by Simon and Schuster. He's also mortgage broker, community activist and radio personality in Miami, Florida., as well as the producer of the Dworkin Report podcast. Grant is also an occasional contributor to Raw Story, Alternet, and the DC Report, and an unpaid senior advisor to the Democratic Coalition.