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Republicans push Trump to support Obama-era climate amendment

An effort to phase out greenhouse gases found in air conditioners and refrigerators has broad bipartisan support -- but not from the White House.

In this photograph taken on December 8, 2016, Indian worker pushes a trolley laden with components on an assembly line of Highly Electrical Appliances India Pvt. Ltd. at a company air-conditioner compressor plant at Matoda, some 20 kms. from Ahmedabad. CREDIT: SAM PANTHAKY/AFP/Getty Images
In this photograph taken on December 8, 2016, Indian worker pushes a trolley laden with components on an assembly line of Highly Electrical Appliances India Pvt. Ltd. at a company air-conditioner compressor plant at Matoda, some 20 kms. from Ahmedabad. CREDIT: SAM PANTHAKY/AFP/Getty Images

An Obama-era climate initiative has garnered support from key Senate Republicans, who are encouraging President Trump to send the legislation their way.

The Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer has the goal of reducing global warming by 0.5 degree Celsius over the course of the next 80 years. Finalized in Rwanda’s capital, the amendment targets hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) — greenhouse gases that are often found in air conditioners and refrigerators.

The Montreal Protocol is a global agreement meant to address the depletion of the ozone layer. Members of the group negotiated the Kigali Amendment in 2016, part of an effort to phase out HFCs without penalizing countries like India, which are still working to develop while struggling with the need for coolants like air conditioning during deadly summers.

In a letter sent June 4, first shared by E&E News on Tuesday, Republicans pushed Trump to forward the amendment to the Senate, where it needs a two-thirds majority to pass. Arguing that the Montreal Protocol itself both has its roots in the Reagan administration and “has enjoyed bipartisan support since its inception”, the letter emphasizes that some 589,000 U.S. employees would benefit from the Kigali Amendment.

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Ratifying the deal, the groups argue, will bring in at least $12.5 billion and more than 30,000 new jobs in the next decade. The letter is signed by 13 Republican senators, including John Kennedy and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Susan Collins (ME), and Lindsay Graham (SC).

“By sending this amendment to the Senate, you will help secure America’s place as the global leader in several manufacturing industries, and in turn give American workers an advantage against their competitors in the international marketplace,” the senators wrote.

“We urge you to send this amendment to the Senate for consideration,” the letter continued. “The impacted industries in our country played a major role in shaping this amendment and are supportive of its ratification and implementation.”

Under the Kigali Amendment, nations with more resources like the United States must phase out HFCs first, followed by China and various island nations. Last will be India and other vulnerable countries, including Iraq, who would begin their phase-out in 2028.

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Support for the Kigali Amendment runs deep. Environmentalists and proponents of the landmark 2016 Paris climate agreement endorse efforts to lower HFCs along with other methods of reducing greenhouse gases. But the Kigali Amendment is also backed by U.S. industries and a number of more traditionally conservative figures.

According to an April 2018 report from the trade groups Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute and the Alliance for Responsible Atmospheric Policy, the Kigali Amendment is critical to maintaining U.S. market power. The groups represent a number of large companies, including Carrier.

“Without Kigali ratification,” the report warns, “growth opportunities will be lost along with the jobs to support that growth, the trade deficit will grow, and the U.S. share of global export markets will decline.”

The Trump administration has not taken a stance on the Kigali Amendment. Two former Trump administration members, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and George David Banks, a climate advisor, both supported the amendment, but in their absence it is unclear who will lobby for the effort.

As president, Trump has worked to unravel a number of Obama-era domestic initiatives, in addition to targeting international efforts like the Paris agreement. Trump announced the United States would withdraw from that deal in June 2017.

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At that time, he also lashed out at efforts like the Green Climate Fund, an endeavor meant to help lower-income countries develop sustainably with support from wealthier countries. A study published in May found that while developing countries are suffering disproportionately from climate change, major polluters like the United States are not stepping up to help.