America-first economic policies can score big climate gains

Jhe media failed to grasp the significance of the Senate’s ratification of the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol. More than 20 Republicans have joined Democrats in supporting this international agreement to fight climate change.

Kigali’s emissions reductions are accompanied by the gradual reduction of HFCs, a greenhouse gas used in refrigerants and air conditioning. This strong performance by the GOP may come as a surprise, especially given the conservative skepticism of multilateral agreements such as the Paris climate accord. But rest assured, Republicans have not embraced the globalization of climate change. Instead, they were largely driven by commercial interests since Kigali’s approval is expected to generate around 150,000 direct and indirect jobs. Additionally, US industry is expected to gain 25% more in the global refrigerant alternatives market.

In many ways, the GOP’s support for Kigali is the latest indicator of a growing attention to industrial policy making. Prior to the Trump administration, such interest would have been denounced as anti-free market, but Republican politics is increasingly shaped by the evolving geopolitical tussle with China. This concern motivated some GOP lawmakers to provide crucial votes for the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the CHIPS and Science Act. It has also motivated Republicans to support a range of clean energy tax incentives in 2020.

Proponents of building a national climate consensus should take note. Linking climate policies to economic and national security measures provides opportunities for bipartisan policymaking with meaningful global emissions reductions. And in the case of Kigali, the Montreal Protocol offers a model for the next steps in the development of this strategy – unlike the Paris Agreement.

That said, climate activists should first abandon a commonly held belief that achieving emissions reductions in the United States must be costly. This attitude has undermined efforts to reach a bipartisan agreement. And he played no part in the negotiations of the Montreal Protocol, which created a global regulatory framework that monetized American leadership in refrigeration innovation. As American industry gained billions of dollars, the Montreal Protocol also achieved its goal of protecting and healing the ozone layer.

Republicans, including former President Donald Trump, see global climate agreements through the prism of their negative effect on US competitiveness. It’s for good reason. The Kyoto Protocol would have required deep cuts in US emissions, and it and the Paris Agreement have largely given China a free pass. However, a growing number of Republicans, especially the senses. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA), seek to create a new paradigm that could change GOP views on international climate cooperation.

These Republicans want to monetize America’s carbon efficiency to help relocate key supply chain components, bolster manufacturing, and reclaim lost global market share to China and others. The carbon intensity of the Chinese economy is more than three times that of America; Russia’s economy is four times greater. America, in coordination with its allies, stands to gain significant geopolitical and economic advantages with trade and climate policy that makes it harder for Beijing to leverage its poor environmental standards as a competitive advantage.

While the details of any Republican trade policy design remain undetermined, the GOP’s interest in using economic policy to counter China presents bipartisan opportunities. A new business paradigm could be transformative for global climate policy-making. Also, from an emissions perspective, making goods here in America and replacing dirtier Chinese products reduces global carbon pollution.

George David Banks is a fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center and previously served as special assistant for international energy and the environment on the Trump administration’s National Economic and National Security Councils.

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