Conservative Groups, Business Leaders Clashing Over This Obama-Era Climate Policy

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Jason Hopkins Immigration and politics reporter
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A number of conservative organizations have come out against the Kigali Amendment, putting them at odds with business groups that have been urging the Trump administration to keep the new climate standards.

The Kigali Amendment, negotiated during the Obama administration in 2016, is due to go into effect in January 2019 and sets new global standards for heating and air conditioning chemicals. More specifically, the amendment mandates the phase-out of hydrofluorocarbons and greenhouse gases that are found in refrigerators and heaters. The purpose of Kigali — which is an extension of the 1987 Montreal Protocol — is to protect the atmosphere from chemicals that have eaten a hole in the ozone layer.

Hundreds of different companies in the heating, air conditioning and refrigeration industries are in support of keeping Kigali in place and are encouraging President Donald Trump to submit it to the Senate for ratification. These companies — represented by trade groups such as Alliance for Responsible Atmospheric Policy and the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute — have already spent millions transitioning to the new standards. They do not want the Trump administration to ditch Kigali and see their investments go to waste.

However, more than 20 conservative and libertarian groups sent a letter to Trump on Monday urging him to do just that, arguing that the amendment would cause great economic harm with hardly any environmental benefit. Led by the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), the letter was signed by numerous organizations, including Heritage Action, Americans for Limited Government, American Energy Alliance and others.

“The undersigned free market, conservative, consumer, and sound science organizations urge you to reject the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol,” the letter to Trump began. “[Environmental groups] claim that the use of HFCs must be reduced because of their global warming potential. But as with so many other Obama-era climate change measures, the Kigali Amendment would do far more economic harm than environmental good.”

The letter makes the case that adoption of the Kigali Amendment would lower global mean temperature by an “unmeasurable” amount. At the same time, the toll on American households would be hundreds of dollars in added refrigerant costs. Such extra costs to consumers and businesses, they argue, would be even worse for developing countries. (RELATED: Air Conditioner Lobby Wants Trump To Stick With This Obama-Era Climate Treaty)

“By opposing the Kigali Amendment, we want to make clear that we do not oppose the adoption of HFOs for air conditioning and refrigeration,” the letter continues. “We simply believe that consumers and businesses rather than governments or the United Nations should be able to decide if and when to replace HFCs with HFOs.”

The letter could prove effective in swaying Trump’s opinion. The director of CEI’s center for energy and environment, Myron Ebell, is a signatory to the letter. Ebell previously operated Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) transition team and has been a major supporter of the White House’s environmental deregulation agenda.

While Trump adamantly opposed the Paris climate agreement, he has been silent on where he stands with this particular amendment, which is why conservative groups and business trade groups have worked hard to earn his favor. The Kigali Amendment is set to go into effect in January 2019, but the president must first submit it to the Senate for ratification by a two-thirds vote.

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