Big Business Refuses To Stop Pressuring Trump To Keep An Obama-Era Climate Treaty

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Jason Hopkins Immigration and politics reporter
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Business groups are fighting for President Donald Trump’s ear and increasing efforts to convince him that a climate policy enacted under his predecessor is something worth keeping.

The business community has been generally supportive of Donald Trump’s deregulation agenda. Many of them have praised the White House’s push to roll back and undo numerous environmental regulations passed during President Barack Obama’s tenure. However, there is one treaty that business interests have been fighting tooth-and-nail for Trump to keep.

A number of groups are mounting a lobbying effort in support of the Kigali Amendment. The policy, if adopted by U.S. lawmakers, would increase regulation on refrigerant technology. While it would be commonsense to assume these businesses would oppose greater regulation pushed upon them, many of these companies have already spent millions transition to the new standards and do not want to see their investments go to waste.

About a month before the president won the presidential election in an historic upset, world leaders agreed to the Kigali Amendment — named after the Rwandan city it was passed in. Kigali builds upon the Montreal Protocol, a 30-year-old global treaty devised to heal the ozone layer. The amendment calls for the elimination of hydrofluorocarbons and greenhouse gas chemicals that are typically found in refrigerators and heaters.

While the White House has not publicly opposed Kigali, officials appear to be heading in that direction. A State Department staffer in November went so far as to say they supported the amendment, but now they are stating that its still under consideration — a notable shift.

In the meantime, supporters of the regulation are ramping up efforts to persuade the Republican president. The Air-Condition, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute — a major trade association that represents over 300 different companies in the industry — has lobbied the White House in support of Kigali. The Alliance for Responsible Atmospheric Policy, which also represents affected companies, has existed since the implementation of the Montreal Protocol and publicly backs the amendment.

Now, these groups are forming lobbying organizations with the tacit goal of pushing Kigali through the finish line. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other major trade associations in July launched Let America Lead. There is one notable detail in Let America Lead’s website, something that is similar to much of the lobbying efforts by Kigali supporters: The literature caters to the president’s eyes. On its description page, Let America Lead writes — in bold, very noticeable font — that Kigali “puts America first” — a clear homage to Trump’s famous campaign slogan.

Much of the talking points submitted by supporters revolve around the economic benefits of Kigali, with little to no mention of the environmental benefits. Supporters also remind Trump that Montreal Protocol was favored by President Ronald Reagan — an influential figure for the president.

However, there are conservative groups that oppose Kigali, and the have taken steps to keep it from being implemented.

Over 20 libertarian and conservative organizations in early July sent a letter to the president, imploring him to nix the amendment, arguing that such a policy would cause undue economic harm and provide minimal environmental benefit. Numerous influential players singed onto the letter, including the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Heritage Action, Americans for Limited Government and others.

Kigali is due to be implemented by January 2019, but in order for it to become effective in the U.S., Trump must send it to the Senate for ratification.

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