White House huddles with industry on climate deal

Source: Zack Colman, E&E News reporter • Posted: Tuesday, December 19, 2017

A White House official met with an industry group last week to discuss how to move forward on an international treaty to phase out greenhouse gas emissions from refrigerants, sources told E&E News.

Representatives from the Air-Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) met with White House energy aide George David Banks and John Thompson, a State Department official, regarding the Kigali Amendment, named for the Rwandan capital where it was finalized in 2016 with the support of the Obama administration.

AHRI supports the amendment.

The White House has not yet submitted the amendment for Senate ratification. But the path forward for the amendment got complicated in August when a federal court scrapped an Obama-era rule to limit hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), a class of climate superpollutants that the Kigali policy targets.

While the Trump administration signaled support for the treaty last month, it still must either issue a new rule through U.S. EPA or seek to overturn the federal court decision, which is being appealed (Climatewire, Nov. 29). Congress also could pass legislation to that effect (Climatewire, Aug. 9).

What EPA intends to do is unclear. The agency didn’t have a representative in the meeting.

“The only thing I would say is if you think about who should be there and who is not there, then you know who they have to get through,” AHRI spokesman Francis Dietz said.

Some familiar with the matter say EPA has been more difficult to court because Kigali is about climate change, a topic EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has been keen to avoid. The amendment to the Montreal Protocol seeks a drawdown of HFCs on a tiered approach. Developed countries like the United States must begin hitting goals in 2019 that gradually grow more stringent.

Proponents have instead framed the issue as a business opportunity, as U.S. air conditioning manufacturers contend they’re poised to benefit in the marketplace because they have the global lead in substitute technology.

“I think that the industry is doing a fantastic job of making the business case for this, which I think is the strongest case,” said Andrew Light, a former State Department climate adviser who is now at the World Resources Institute.

EPA referred E&E News to the White House for comment.

“No announcements at this time,” White House spokeswoman Kelly Love said in an email.