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Illustration: Lazaro Gamio / Axios

The world's biggest air conditioning and chemical companies are urging President Trump to defend one of his predecessor's landmark climate policies. So far it's working.

Why it matters: The policy, to phase down greenhouse gases emitted from refrigerants in appliances like air conditioners and refrigerators, is the only Obama-era climate policy Trump hasn't targeted for repeal. Companies, led by global chemical makers Honeywell and Chemours, are lobbying the administration to defend a regulation and support a global treaty on the issue, according to industry officials, administration officials and others involved in the issue.

The bottom line: Companies have spent millions complying with the policy and other similar standards around the world over the past several years — and they don't want that money to go to waste. To the industry and administration, this is more about financial investments than it is climate change. That makes it surprisingly non-controversial compared to the Paris climate deal.

One industry, mostly united

The industry backs a global treaty to phase down the refrigerants, which contain powerful greenhouse gases called hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs.

Led by the Obama administration, world leaders in Kigali, Rwanda, agreed last October to amend the Montreal Protocol to phase down emissions of HFCs. First created 30 years ago to fix the hole in the Earth's ozone layer, that treaty is now achieving its goal.

The Kigali amendment, as it's known, has faced little political pushback compared to the Paris climate deal, which Obama entered into unilaterally and which Trump has said the United States is abandoning.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, a vocal critic of the Paris accord, has not commented about this issue publicly much, if at all.

"We are very quick to distinguish the Montreal Protocol from the Paris climate deal," said Kevin Fay, executive director of the Alliance for Responsible Atmospheric Policy, an industry trade group representing companies like Honeywell, Arkema, Carrier and Johnson Controls.

In his discussions urging the administration and Republican lawmakers to back the policy, Fay says he references President Ronald Reagan, who signed the Montreal Protocol in 1988 and is someone Trump admires. "It's Reagan-era environmental policy done right," Fay says.

David Stevenson, who directs energy issues at the Caesar Rodney Institute, a free-market think tank in Delaware, is the conservative movement's voice opposing the Kigali amendment.

"The Montreal Protocol is about ozone reduction, not climate change," said Stevenson, who served on Trump's team helping with the transition at EPA. "I think the administration just hasn't really looked at it too closely, and it has gotten some comments from businesses that want to keep it in place."

The reasons the industry supports the KIgali amendment are not about climate change, but business certainty.

"It really was just a matter of wanting to have one global process rather than having a patchwork of regulations that they would have to comply with," said Francis Dietz, a vice president at The Air Conditioning Heating & Refrigeration Institute. That association represents 90% of U.S. air conditioning manufacturing and 70% of the global industry.

The big picture: This is the most aggressive example of how different types of industries are urging Trump to use caution with his regulatory rollback, in the name of business certainty. Some executives in the fossil fuel and electric power sectors are urging the administration not to issue wholesale repeals of several regulations, including a rule cutting carbon emissions from power plants.

Legal test

In February, Justice Department lawyers defended in court an Environmental Protection Agency rule phasing out certain uses of refrigerants that emit HFC's, at the behest of most companies in the industry. A divided three-judge panel of the D.C. federal appeals court ruled against EPA in August and in support of two companies arguing the agency overstepped its authority.

The administration now has to decide by Friday whether it will seek a rehearing to the full court. That decision will test whether it backs a policy most regulated companies support, despite the president's rhetoric opposing regulations and dismissing climate change. An EPA spokeswoman would not say what the agency plans to do.

"Honeywell -- and many other American companies, particularly in the heating and cooling industry -- have made significant investments based on that [EPA] standard," A Honeywell spokesperson said. "To pull that back now unfairly creates damage to U.S. industry, and threatens U.S. leadership on a global level."

Honeywell, which along with Chemours intervened in the case in support of EPA, is probably going to seek a rehearing. The two companies are working together on researching refrigerants. Chemours is also considering appealing, a spokesperson said. The industry associations also support appealing. The Natural Resources Defense Council, another intervenor, plans to appeal.

Spokespeople for the two companies that filed the lawsuit, Arkema and Mexichem Fluor, declined to comment.

Stay tuned

Because the Kigali amendment is part of the legally binding Montreal treaty, the Senate must vote on whether to ratify it. The State Department needs to first send it over. A department spokeswoman said there is no update.

The industry is in no rush, given the hyperpartisan nature of Washington these days. The amendment agreed to in Kigali is likely to go into effect for the countries that have signed it in January 2019.

"Would it be in our best interest for us to deal with that prior to then?" asked Fay of the Alliance for Responsible Atmospheric Policy. "Yes."

Go deeper

Updated 5 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Facebook paying up to $14M to settle employment discrimination claims

Photo: T.J. Kirkpatrick/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Facebook has agreed to pay up to $14.25 million to settle allegations that it discriminated against American workers by reserving positions for temporary visa holders, the Justice Department announced on Tuesday.

Why it matters: The settlement represents the largest civil penalty and monetary award that the Civil Rights Division has recovered in the 35-year history of the Immigration and Nationality Act's anti-discrimination provision.

Updated 2 hours ago - World

Mapping repression in China's Xinjiang region

Data: © Mapbox, © OpenStreetMap; Map: Will Chase/Axios

A sweeping new report released today by an Australian research organization reveals new details about how the Chinese Communist Party — and specifically who within the party — is carrying out its campaign of repression in Xinjiang.

Why it matters: Uncovering the actual offices and individuals implementing the Chinese government's genocide and forced labor policies in Xinjiang can bring accountability and help international companies delink supply chains in compliance with U.S. and EU forced labor laws.

Report: U.S. Latinos near 50% homeownership rate

Real estate broker Alex Betances sits in front of a home in Reading, Pa. Photo: Ryan McFadden/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Image

Latinos increased their homeownership rate to nearly 50% in 2020, according to a report from a group monitoring U.S. Hispanic wealth creation.

Why it matters: The Hispanic Wealth Project found that the homeownership rate grew despite the lack of diversified financial assets among Latinos and around 15% who still live below the federal poverty line ($26,500 for a family of four).