President Obama on Tuesday insisted the United States should be bound by international climate law — even without Congress giving the go ahead.
Obama, who was in Paris negotiating the final points of a massive climate change deal, knows he can’t formally cede U.S. sovereignty without lawmakers’ permission. And he knows he can’t get their permission. So he’s crafting a deal that is only partially “legally” binding. Some analysts believe such a deal will not need congressional approval.
Coming in the wake of the recently complete Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal, this agreement to reduce carbon emissions marks Obama’s latest attempt to place the prerogatives of the international community above the domestic political process.
Obama, at a press conference outside of Paris, said he was confident America would live up to its commitments under the deal and that his successor, whoever that might be, would not abandon it.
“Whoever is the next president of the United States, if they come in and they suggest somehow that global consensus — not just 99.5 percent of scientists and experts, but 99 percent of world leaders — think this is really important, I think the president of the United States is going to need to think this is really important,” he said.
Obama’s proclamation comes as a slap at Republicans in Congress who have thrown sand in the gears of Obama’s ambitions to forge a global carbon reduction treaty and Republican presidential candidates who have vowed to undo his legacy.
By calling for only certain components of the deal to be legally binding — specifically the parts dealing with transparency and periodic reviews — Obama is threading a tight needle by trying to circumvent the need for congressional approval while effectively peer pressuring any future president into agreeing to abide by the pledged reductions.
“Although the targets themselves may not have the force of treaties, the process, the procedures that ensure transparency and periodic reviews, that needs to be legally binding. And that’s going to be critical in us having high ambitions and holding each other accountable,” he said.
Obama has pledged to reduce U.S. emissions by 26 percent by 2025 from a 2005 baseline.
Obama has pledged to reduce U.S. emissions by 26 percent by 2025 from a 2005 baseline. However, under the periodic reviews sought by negotiators, countries would need to increase their commitments every five years.
The move is also intended to appease international elites who have grown frustrated with the perceived obstinance of the United States when it comes to fighting global warming. Many Republicans and many in the U.S. public either question the science behind global warming or are averse to ceding the country’s sovereignty to global climate bureaucrats.
The question of whether the international climate agreement would be binding was a major point of contention in the lead up to the Paris talks.
European countries had sought a fully legally binding pact whereby countries agreed to reduce carbon emissions by ambitious amounts and submit their progress in international reviews.
Obama’s team had similar ambitions, but they were ultimately forced to confront the reality that Republicans in Congress would never approve such a deal, so they conceded that the climate pact could not be a fully legally binding treaty.