President Trump lays out a national security strategy that envisions nations in perpetual competition, reverses Obama-era warnings on climate change, and deemphasizes multinational agreements. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
The Trump administration has over the past year worked to shatter greenhouse-gas emission rules issued under President Barack Obama.
But there is at least one sliver of the Obama administration’s climate agenda that Trump's deputies are considering keeping. And in recent weeks, a coalition of business associations, conservative pundits and Republican lawmakers have joined forces to sell the White House on the measure as a job maker for the self-proclaimed “greatest jobs president that God ever created.”
As with so many things, however, there is a chance that chaos at the White House may get in the way.
In 2016, world leaders struck a deal to phase out the use of a class of chemicals called hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, as coolants in refrigerators and air conditioners. Brokered in the capital of Rwanda, the deal known as the Kigali Amendment is an update to the Montreal Protocol, a landmark 1980s treaty approved by the U.S. Senate curbing the use of chemicals depleting the Earth’s protective ozone layer. Now, interest groups seem to have a chance of getting a GOP-led Senate -- and Trump -- to make it stronger.
The agreement would phase out HFCs, which were used as a replacement for other chemicals in air conditioners and refrigerators initially reduced by the Montreal Protocol. HFCs have a less-acute effect on the ozone layer, but their contribution to Earth’s climate became clear only years later -- like carbon dioxide and methane, they trap heat and warm the atmosphere.
As with all treaties (or in this case, an amendment to a treaty), Kigali needs two-thirds approval of the Senate — and the signature of a president long suspicious of climate change.
That bar is high, but interest groups are mounting pressure on several fronts. On Friday, Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) introduced a bill meant to give the Environmental Protection Agency the power to implement the Kigali Amendment, should it be ratified. The bill addresses a D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals decision last year ruling the Clean Air Act does not give the agency authority to end the use of HFCs.
“It’s not often that Democrats, Republicans, industry and environmental groups come together to agree on anything,” Kennedy said in a statement, “but we are all in agreement on this one.” One other Senate Republican, Susan Collins of Maine, initially sponsored the legislation, along with three Democrats, including Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware, the top Democrat on the Environmental and Public Works Committee.
One of the arguments being deployed by pro-Kigali advocates they hope resonates with Trump: jobs. As HFCs are phased out, a race is on between companies and nations to find and manufacture replacement chemicals. Last year, Honeywell opened a new $300 million plant to make the next generation of refrigerants — in, as it happens, Kennedy’s home state of Louisiana.
The cost of phasing out a single type of coolant pales in comparison, as some Republicans see it, to the price the world economy would pay for curbing the burning of fossil fuels.
This month, during a speech at the conservative Hudson Institute, magazine publisher Steve Forbes called the HFC amendment “one of those rare environmental policies that almost offers something to everyone.”
Another international agreement, the Paris climate accord, which allowed nations to voluntarily reduce emissions, was by comparison “a bad deal,” according to Forbes. In May, Trump announced the United States would pull out of the Paris deal.
“The president had it right on that one,” Forbes said.
So far, the pro-Kigali crowd has been "cautiously optimistic" about the reception they have received at the White House, according to Francis Dietz, vice president of public affairs at the Air-Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute.
"We've just been heartened by how receptive they've been over there to understanding the reasons why we support it and how important it is for U.S. industry," Dietz said. "They've listened to that."
Indeed in November, Judy Garber, a principal deputy assistant secretary at the State Department, called the amendment a "pragmatic and balanced approach" to limiting HFCs.
Of course, other industry groups tried in vain to pressure the Trump administration to stay in the Paris accord. It doesn't help that one of those doing that listening on Kigali recently left the White House.
George David Banks, a White House climate adviser seen as an ally on the HFC issue, resigned last week after failing to receive a permanent security clearance due to, he said, his admission that he smoking marijuana in 2013.
For now, Dietz is content with silence from the White House — and President Trump — since it took two to four years to ratify previous amendments to the Montreal Protocol.
"Really, he hasn't said anything about Kigali at all," he said. "To me, that is a good sign."
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Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt attends a meeting at the White House. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)
— Pruitt’s pricey travel: Under fire for the cost of his domestic and international travel, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt over the weekend canceled a planned week-long trip to Israel. “We decided to postpone; the administrator looks forward to going in the future,” EPA spokeswoman Liz Bowman told The Washington Post’s Juliet Eilperin and Ruth Eglash without providing an explicit reason for the change.
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Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke walks through the Western Conservation and Hunting Expo this month in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
— "Largest Oil and Gas Lease Sale in U.S. History:" The Interior Department announced late last week a March 21 date for what it dubbed the largest oil and gas offshore auction in the nation’s history. Drilling leases for 77.3 million acres of federal waters off of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida will be auctioned less than a year after a “similar sale yielded little corporate interest,” Reuters notes.
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Watch clouds of steam and ash billow out of the erupting Mount Sinabung volcano on the Indonesian island of Sumatra:
Source : https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/paloma/the-energy-202/2018/02/20/the-energy-202-trump-still-has-a-chance-to-make-environmentalists-happy/5a8b704630fb047655a06813/