Brad Plumer writes in the New York Times about what he calls a “growing chorus of Senate Republicans, conservative taxpayer groups and corporate executives” urging President Trump to make a greater effort to address climate change.
Why Republicans are backing an Obama-era climate policy
This is not something you see every day: Over the past month, a growing chorus of Senate Republicans, conservative taxpayer groups and corporate executives has been urging President Trump to implement a major Obama-era policy to tackle climate change.
They’re just not calling it that.
The issue at hand revolves around air-conditioners. In 2017, at a United Nations summit in Kigali, Rwanda, President Barack Obama’s administration agreed with 196 other countries to phase out the use of hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, an extremely potent greenhouse gas used in air-conditioners, refrigerators and foams. The pact was an amendment to the 1987 Montreal Protocol meant to protect the ozone layer.
Experts say the policy could have a surprisingly large climate impact. With countries like China and India installing millions of new air-conditioners, HFC emissions were expected to skyrocket this century. Reducing the use of these chemicals could help avoid up to 0.44 degrees Celsius of warming by century’s end. Given that the world’s nations are trying to limit total warming below two degrees, that’s a significant chunk.
But for the United States to fully participate in these efforts, the Kigali amendment needs to be ratified by two-thirds of the Senate. Mr. Trump has not decided whether to submit the treaty for approval.
On the surface, it would seem Mr. Trump would have no interest. He’s been rolling back most Obama-era climate policies. Why should this one be any different?
But in this case, dozens of American manufacturers have been pressing Mr. Trump to move forward. Companies like Honeywell, Dow Chemical and Johnson Controls are well positioned to produce next-generation air-conditioners and alternatives to HFCs, and they don’t want to lose out on a budding global market.
Last week, 34 executives from the heating, ventilation, air-conditioning and refrigeration industries wrote a letter to Mr. Trump urging him to submit the treaty for ratification. They didn’t mention “climate change” or “emissions” at all. Instead, they appealed to him on economic grounds: Ratifying the treaty, they said, would increase American exports by $5 billion and lead to 33,000 new manufacturing jobs.
If the United States doesn’t ratify the treaty, they wrote, countries like China will have an advantage in selling cleaner technologies to the rest of the world. “We believe the Kigali Amendment represents a chance to put America first,” the executives wrote.
This argument is gaining favor among conservatives. Thirteen Republican senators recently signed their own letter urging Mr. Trump to act, signaling broad support in the Senate. (Democrats are likely to support the treaty.) And on Wednesday, three influential conservative taxpayer groups — Americans for Tax Reform, FreedomWorks and the American Council for Capital Formation — added their support.
Other conservative groups, including the Heritage Foundation, have opposed the amendment, calling it a climate policy inappropriately tacked onto a treaty to fix the ozone layer, and arguing that phasing out HFCs could increase costs for consumers.
Still, the growing momentum on the right is a sign that climate policy could still move forward in the Trump era — as long as it has broad support from American industry and is framed in other terms. “If it lands in front of the president, he’s going to support it,” predicted George David Banks, a former adviser to Mr. Trump on energy and climate change who co-signed the letter from conservative groups. “And I say that because of the economic trade argument.”