The Senate Ratifies the Kigali Amendment: Is Bipartisan Climate Action Possible?

Foley Hoag LLP - Environmental Law

Foley Hoag LLP - Environmental Law

Earlier this week, the Senate ratified the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol.  The amendment, which has already been ratified by most other countries, will result in the phase-out of hydrofluorocarbons, a group of potent greenhouse gases.  Substantively, this is a big deal.  Estimates are that it will prevent about ½ a degree Celsius in global warming.  That’s a meangingful impact. 

Politically, it’s also important.  It shows both that international cooperation on climate issues is feasible, and that legislative action in the United States is feasible.  The vote was 69 to 27, and almost half of GOP senators supported it.

I agree that this is a major accomplishment and everyone should be celebrating.  I do feel compelled to note, however, that 20 years ago, the vote would probably have been 98 to 1, and the lone no vote would have been a senator who in a former life voted against Sandy Koufax or Derek Jeter getting into the Baseball Hall of Fame on the first ballot.

After all, John Kennedy, Senator from Louisiana, not exactly a liberal, was quoted in Bloomberg Environment and Energy (subscription required) as saying simply that:

There’s no reason not to support Kigali.

Shelley Moore Capito, from West Virginia, also not exactly a liberal, said that:

It will create jobs and open up markets for us.

The Chamber of Commerce, not exactly a liberal lobbying group, also supported the amendment, stating that it:

would enhance the competitiveness of U.S. manufacturers.

And yet, 27 Republicans opposed it.  It’s hard to come up with any explanation other than that they simply feel compelled to oppose any legislation that is supported by their opponents.  Think of it as the Groucho Marx view of life, as applied to the U.S. Congress.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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