Trump would back pro-business climate treaty — aide

Source: Jean Chemnick, E&E News reporter • Posted: Friday, February 9, 2018

President Trump will support an international climate deal to limit heat-trapping refrigerants and coolants if he thinks it’s good for U.S. business, according to a White House energy aide.

“The president is not ideological on these issues,” White House energy adviser George David Banks said yesterday at the Hudson Institute, a conservative think tank in Washington. Banks spoke at a forum about the fate of the climate agreement — known as the Kigali Amendment — that was finalized in 2016 with the support of the Obama administration.

If Trump ultimately decides to ask the Senate to allow the United States to join the 2016 amendment, he said, “it will be largely because he wants to protect and create U.S. jobs and advance U.S. commercial interests.”

Banks’ comments come after Trump last year declared he would pull the United States out of the Paris climate agreement, leaning heavily on arguments that it didn’t make economic sense. He has suggested the United States might re-enter that treaty if a “better deal” were reached, but the White House hasn’t spelled out what such a deal would entail.

The Kigali Amendment was added to the Montreal Protocol, a 1987 ozone treaty Banks called a “remarkable success story of international cooperation.” But the protocol led to the rise of hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, a powerful class of climate-forcing chemicals, to replace ozone depleters. The Kigali Amendment is expected to help avoid at least half a degree Celsius of warming by the end of the century.

All previous Montreal Protocol amendments were ratified by the Senate rather than joined as executive agreements, as the Obama administration did with the Paris Agreement. Ratification requires a two-thirds vote. Banks said the Trump administration would ask the Senate for its advice and consent on the HFC amendment as well if it chose to join.

“This administration is not going to circumvent the Congress,” he said.

Banks gave no timeline for a decision but enlisted representatives from business and other sectors attending the Hudson meeting to help furnish economic data on why Kigali is a boon to domestic businesses.

U.S. industry supports the amendment, and U.S. companies developed many of the non-HFC alternative chemicals. But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit complicated domestic compliance with the agreement last year when it vacated a U.S. EPA rule that mandated a phase-down of HFC use in line with Kigali. The rule was developed under President Obama, then defended by the Trump administration’s Justice Department (Greenwire, Aug. 8, 2017).

That ruling created questions about how the United States would comply with Kigali if it joined. But Jeff Holmstead, who ran the EPA air office under George W. Bush, said Article 6 of the Clean Air Act allows the agency to promulgate regulations to comply with a treaty if the president has submitted it and the Senate has ratified it.

And while Holmstead acknowledged that Kigali is not top of mind for most members of the Senate now, he predicted that if Trump blessed it and submitted it for the Senate’s consent, it would pass easily.