This commentary originally appeared in The Federalist on December 23, 2015.
There will be a lot of high-fives and hyperventilating over the much-anticipated Framework Convention on Climate Change adopted by the Twenty-First Session of the Conference of the Parties meeting in Paris.
Under the banner “Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” 25,000 delegates from 196 countries gathered recognizing that “climate change represents an urgent and potentially irreversible threat to human societies and the planet and thus requires the widest possible cooperation by all countries, and their participation in an effective and appropriate international response, with a view to accelerating the reduction of global greenhouse gas emissions.”
We’ll Do Nothing But Blow Smoke
After two weeks of tough negotiations, it turns out the final “agreement” includes lots of less-than-decisive words like “should,” “pledges,” “ambitions,” and “voluntary participation,” and in the end requires no country to do anything to reduce CO2 emissions. That truth did not prevent billionaire environmentalist Tom Seyer’s group NextGen Climate from sending out an email to supporters declaring, “We Did It!” The simple question is, did what? United Nations (UN) delegates managed to expend lots of energy and effort on an agreement that does nothing. Really nothing!
With the president and the White House declaring victory, surely the agreement will save the world. But apparently they don’t believe that, either. Secretary of State John Kerry said “even if every American citizen biked to work, carpooled to school, used only solar panels to power their homes, if we each planted a dozen trees, if we somehow eliminated all of our domestic greenhouse gas emissions, guess what—that still wouldn’t be enough to offset the carbon pollution coming from the rest of the world.”
Kerry added, “If all the industrial nations went down to zero emissions – remember what I just said, all the industrial emissions went down to zero emissions – it wouldn’t be enough, not when more than 65 percent of the world’s carbon pollution comes from the developing world.”
One wonders why this president would unilaterally pursue such a policy that does nothing more than hurt the country he took an oath to protect.
Americans Know It’s Hype
Appearing on ABC’s “This Week,” Kerry also said, “I don’t believe the American people, who predominately do believe what is happening with climate change … are going to accept as a genuine leader someone who doesn’t understand the science of climate change and isn’t willing to do something about it.”
But the people are simply not buying it. During the height of the Paris conference, with all the media hype, a Wall Street Journal online poll asked, “Do you believe humans are responsible for climate change?” Even when told the UN weather agency has reported that this decade is on track to become the warmest since 1850 and that 2009 could rank among the top-five warmest years, only 12 percent of respondents answered “YES”.
The UN itself acknowledges this agreement and signatories’ emission reduction pledges won’t “save the planet.” The UN “notes with concern that the estimated aggregate greenhouse gas emission levels in 2025 and 2030 resulting from the intended nationally determined contributions (from agreeing countries) do not fall within least-cost 2 ˚C scenarios but rather lead to a projected level of 55 gigatonnes in 2030.” That is a lot of words to say that the agreement does not do what they are telling everyone it does.
As Thomas Pyle of the Institute for Energy Research said in National Review, the major underpinning of the United States’ voluntary commitment in Paris—that is, the Clean Power Plan—is illegal and unconstitutional. How can that possibly serve as a national obligation?
This Is DOA in the Senate
In response to the announcement that a deal had been reached in Paris, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement, “The President is making promises he can’t keep, writing checks he can’t cash, and stepping over the middle class to take credit for an ‘agreement’ that is subject to being shredded in 13 months.”
Politico reports that what really happened in Paris—the declaration of “We have an agreement”—was done before anyone saw the final language. “The French never showed anyone any text. Then on Saturday morning, French president François Hollande announced a done deal – though no one had ever seen it.”
When U.S. negotiators finally got ahold of the final text, Politico reports, they saw that the language said countries “shall” set economy-wide targets for carbon reductions, “which in diplomatic-ese means (each country) is legally required to do.” That would mean the deal would have to be put before the U.S. Senate for ratification, which they say would be a certain death sentence for the agreement. Kerry told negotiators “shall” had to be changed to “should” or the United States would not support the agreement. So much for backbone.
Watch Out—It’s A Treaty
Posting at GlobalWarming.org, Marlo Lewis of the Competitive Enterprise Institute argues the agreement is indeed a treaty and should face ratification by two-thirds of the Senate. He says there are two primary reasons this is a treaty in spite of the administration’s insistence otherwise: (1) the U.S. Intended Nationally Determined Contribusions violate the executive branch commitment the Senate conditioned upon its consent to ratify the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, and (2) the Paris agreement is a treaty under official State Department criteria.
Lewis explains, “What should GOP leaders do? They should pass resolutions explaining why the Paris agreement is a treaty, why the President must therefore submit the agreement to the Senate for its advice and consent, and why until ratified the treaty is no more politically-binding on the people and Congress of the United States than the long lists of never-to-be-enacted proposals in presidential state of the union speeches. The concurrent resolution introduced by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Penn.) is exactly the kind of action needed to frame the debate.”
Having participated in international agreement-drafting during two UNESCO World Heritage meetings, I can attest that every single word of these agreements are carefully considered before writing it. This one is no different.
Even with this backstory, there has been much celebration—especially in developing countries destined to receive billions from the Green Climate Fund. The UN secretary general has even invited the world to convene a high-level signature ceremony for the agreement, fittingly on Earth Day, April 22, 2016.
Speaking of backbone, the question now is whether Congress will have the courage to prevent monies from being spent to support this illegal, unconstitutional, and scientifically flawed “agreement” that in the end will not prevent the earth’s climate from changing. The climate changes—deal with it.
Doug Domenech is the director of the Fueling Freedom Project at the Texas Public Policy Foundation. He is the former Virginia secretary of natural resources and deputy chief of staff for the U.S. Department of the Interior in the George W. Bush administration.