Energy & Environment

Novel international greenhouse gas commitment goes into effect


The United Nations is cheering a first of its kind international climate pact to curb the use of a potent greenhouse gas that went into effect on January 1.

The Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, negotiated under the Obama administration in 2016, went into effect at the beginning of the year and binds the 65 countries who ratified the amendment to dramatically decrease their hydrofluorocarbon (HFCs) emissions.

{mosads}Restricting ozone depleting pollutants was a main tenant of the Montreal Protocol signed in 1987. HFCs are organic compounds often used in air conditioners and refrigerators as alternatives to ozone-depleting substances. While they don’t directly harm the ozone layer, HFCs are hundreds of times more potent as greenhouse gases than carbon dioxide.

“The world has taken an important step on the road to drastically reduce the production and consumption of powerful greenhouse gasses known as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and limit global warming,” the U.N. said in a press release Thursday.

Under the amendment, countries are expected to reduce their production and consumption of HFCs by more than 80 percent over the next 30 years.

It’s estimated that if adopted by all governments globally, the agreement can help avoid up to 0.4°C temperature increase due to climate change by the end of this century.

Those in support of the pact include the European Union, Japan, Australia, Canada and Mexico.

Despite the Obama administration’s integral part in negotiating the deal, the Trump administration has remained undecided on its support. Last February, George David Banks, Trump’s adviser for international environmental policy, said that he and his colleagues were still analyzing the 2016 pact to see if they’d recommend the president to support it.

“We understand that there’s broad industry support. But we really want to understand, in a more concrete way, a few things: how this benefits U.S. companies, how it preserves and creates U.S. jobs and how it can help the trade balance and help foster exports to other countries,” Banks said at a gathering at the time.

Banks said that if Trump were to support the agreement, he would first submit it to the Senate for ratification, which would require a two-thirds majority vote.

It’s been a frustrating series of heel dragging by the Trump administration for environmentalists and industry representatives alike who have fought for the United States to stay committed to the Kigali Agreement.

A joint April report from the trade groups Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute and the Alliance for Responsible Atmospheric Policy, said that the deal will strengthen U.S. exports.

“Without Kigali ratification, growth opportunities will be lost along with the jobs to support that growth, the trade deficit will grow, and the U.S. share of global export markets will decline,” the report read.

In June, 13 GOP senators led by John Kennedy (La.) and Susan Collins (Maine) wrote to Trump asking him to submit the treaty amendment for Senate approval. They said the Kigali Amendment would increase manufacturing jobs by 33,000 and boost exports by $4.8 billion.

Yet other conservatives view the treaty, which was signed in Kigali, Rwanda, as a leftover from the Obama administration that should be done away with.

In a letter sent in July, 20 national and state conservative groups including the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) and Heritage Action asked Trump to pull the U.S. out of the agreement.

The groups argued that the agreement would increase the cost to U.S. consumers, saying it “would impose restrictions on production of the affordable refrigerants currently used in most types of air conditioning and refrigeration units and necessitate their likely replacement with more expensive alternatives.”

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is also seeking to reverse previous plans to regulate the use of HFCs nationwide. 

In September, the agency announced it would abandon restrictions on the use of HFCs in refrigerators and other cooling units across the United States. The draft rule also notably stripped out language on how climate change affects children.

The new rule would rescind a 2016 regulation that would have phased out the use of HFCs in appliances. EPA said the new rule is based off the agency’s own determination that the previous rule “exceeded its statutory authority” by extending a refrigerant management requirement meant for ozone depleting substitutes to the gas, which in itself does not contribute to ozone depletion.

Taken to task over the legality of the Obama regulation by two refrigerant manufacturing companies, the Trump administration defended the rule but lost in the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in August 2017. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who sat on that court at the time, authored the ruling that overturned the EPA HFC rule, arguing that the federal government did not have the jurisdiction to regulate the gas under the Clean Air Act.

Environmentalist groups, among other organizations, appealed the verdict to the Supreme Court, but the Trump administration later announced that the appeal was unnecessary as it planned to change the regulation. It asked the court to not take up the case.

The Supreme Court later announced that it would not take up the appeal, on the same day that Kavanaugh started on the Supreme Court. He was not made part of that decision.

Tags Brett Kavanaugh Climate change George David Banks John Kennedy kigali amendment Montreal Protocol Susan Collins
See all Hill.TV See all Video