It’s rare that any government regulations, let alone those dealing with the environment, have the support of Democrats, Republicans and the business community alike. That’s the case with the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol dealing with reducing greenhouse gases, and that’s why President Donald Trump should fully support the treaty’s ratification.
The Montreal Protocol was the world’s response to the discovery of the rapid depletion of the Earth’s ozone layer in the 1980s. By replacing ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons with hydrofluorocarbons, implementation of the Montreal Protocol has helped the ozone layer recover while resulting in a 90 percent reduction in global warming potential.
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The Montreal Protocol was unanimously ratified by the U.S. Senate in 1988 and took effect in 1989. It was enthusiastically supported by President Ronald Reagan, who called it a “monumental achievement” and “the result of an extraordinary process of scientific study, negotiations among representatives of the business and environmental communities, and international diplomacy.” It was also a win for the U.S. economy, as American companies led the way in developing and manufacturing HFCs and the end products that use them, like air conditioners, refrigeration systems and aerosols.
However, while HFCs are not ozone-depleting and have served as a necessary stopgap measure, they are also greenhouse gases, and fears arose that their proliferation and rising demand could contribute to global warming. The Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, signed by over 170 countries in 2016, aims to phase out HFCs in the same manner as the original treaty, and again U.S. businesses stand ready to take the lead in developing the latest technologies that will set a global standard.
HFCs have a wide range of uses that consumers and businesses rely on, mainly in the heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration industries. HVACR is also an important segment of the U.S. economy, directly employing 589,000 workers and contributing $205 billion to our economy each year, making ratification of the Kigali Amendment a priority for a president and Congress concerned about future growth.
Last month, the Air-Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute and the Alliance for Responsible Atmospheric Policy released a new study that makes a strong case for U.S. ratification of the Kigali Amendment. The report’s authors estimate ratification would result in an additional 33,000 direct and 117,000 indirect new jobs, with total output growing by 70 percent over 10 years.
In addition, exports would more than double and allow U.S. businesses to gain 25 percent greater market share, while significantly reducing demand for imports. That’s why the HVACR industry is supportive of Kigali and has already committed $5 billion in research and development through 2025 to develop the next generation of products that will be more energy efficient for consumers and friendlier to the environment.
The Kigali Amendment is also a prime example of how progress and consensus can be achieved when the business community is treated as a stakeholder, not an adversary, in the rulemaking process and should be a benchmark for how our own Environmental Protection Agency should proceed with future regulations.
Like the original Montreal Protocol, it sets difficult yet reasonable and achievable standards that help protect the environment and grow our economy at the same time. And because of the business community’s inclusion in the process, our industries have been preparing for the phasedown of HFCs for some time. In fact, Ross Eisenberg of the National Association of Manufacturers noted that many HFC replacements with a lower environmental footprint either already exist or are close to market.
In light of all the positives the Kigali Amendment would bring, it’s difficult to see any nonpolitical reasons the Trump administration would oppose it. And while the administration has not yet revealed its plans for the Kigali Amendment (the president must submit the treaty to the Senate for ratification), the treaty is 100 percent in line with the president’s “America First” policies.
Failure to do so would only serve to cede global leadership in new product development to other nations at a time when our homegrown industries are poised to claim a significant share of the global next-generation HVACR market. It would result in lost jobs here at home while driving up demand for foreign imports.
For 30 years, the Montreal Protocol has been supported by Republican and Democratic presidents and bipartisan majorities in Congress, and now the Kigali Amendment represents a win-win for U.S. manufacturing, jobs and the environment. Trump should give the agreement his full backing and push the EPA for swift implementation once ratified.
Demetrios Karoutsos is a political and public affairs strategist.
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