Trump Budget Attacks Montreal Protocol, Reagan’s Crown Jewel

Trump is trying to undo what is considered the world’s most successful environmental treaty.
Credit: Source: NASA

The Trump FY18 budget proposal slashes funding to support compliance with the Montreal Protocol, Ronald Reagan’s treaty to save the ozone layer.  

The cut—which appears to be on the order of 40 percent—welches on U.S. international commitments and will imperil the global phase-out of ozone-destroying chemicals.

The Montreal Protocol—widely considered the world’s most successful environmental treaty—was negotiated under President Ronald Reagan in 1987 and is his crowning environmental achievement. It has been strengthened repeatedly under both Republican and Democratic presidents.


Literally every country on earth is a party. Together they have eliminated chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and dozens of other ozone-destroying chemicals worldwide. And they are now well on their way to eliminating another set of ozone depleters—hydrofluorocarbons (HCFCs)—under an accelerated schedule negotiated under President George W. Bush in 2007. 

All this directly benefits Americans.  Saving the ozone layer has protected millions of Americans, and tens of millions of people worldwide, from skin cancer and other diseases. Because these pollutants don't respect national borders, we wouldn’t be able to protect ourselves from these illnesses unless every other country joined in worldwide action on these chemicals.

That’s why the U.S. has supported the Multilateral Fund for nearly three decades, since its creation in 1990. The Multilateral Fund is the vehicle for developed nations to help developing countries meet their concrete treaty commitments and schedules under the Montreal Protocol to phase out their ozone-destroying chemicals. The Fund has disbursed approximately $3 billion over this time, about a quarter coming from the U.S., in cost-effective projects to eliminate dangerous refrigerants, solvents, and other chemicals. 

A tremendous success story. But the job isn’t done yet. We have to complete the phase-out of the HCFCs, agreed under the second President Bush.

Now we risk reneging on America’s commitments, and leaving Americans at risk.

In the FY17 continuing resolutions adopted last fall and this April, Congress approved $41 million for the Multilateral Fund. The U.S. contribution was split between the State Department ($32 million) and the Environmental Protection Agency (close to $9 million). 

Under Trump’s FY18 budget proposal, EPA’s contribution drops to zero (EPA Budget in Brief, p. 64). 

The State Department’s contribution also drops dramatically. Precisely how much is hard to say, but here’s what we can infer.  The department’s budget summary includes the Multilateral Fund in a $57.4 million pot that has to be divided among at least a half dozen activities—one of which has already claimed $21 million (State Budget Justification, p. 290). The detailed appendix shows a blank for the Multilateral Fund in FY18, despite showing $25 million for FY16 (Supplementary Tables, p. 110). 

Making a pull-it-out-of-the-air assumption that State intends the same amount for FY18 as was allocated in FY16, the total U.S. contribution—State plus (now zero) EPA—would drop from $41 million this year to $25 million in FY18.

That’s a nearly 40 percent reduction in America’s support for the global phase-out of ozone-destroying chemicals. 

In 2007, the Bush administration committed to “stable and sufficient” funding as part of the deal with other countries that agreed to accelerate the global HCFC phase-out.   

The Trump budget would welch on that deal. 

If the U.S. doesn’t follow through on its commitment to the Multilateral Fund, developing countries are free to walk away from their treaty commitments to finish the job of protecting the ozone layer.

So with this careless and mean-spirited cut, the Trump budget would destabilize the world’s most effective environmental treaty and do grievous damage to Ronald Reagan’s environmental legacy. 

Congress must reject it, along with the rest of the savage cuts to EPA, State, and other agencies essential to protecting our health and well-being.