No Senate review = no obligation to Paris accord

Tuesday, October 11, 2016
Chris Woodward (

Paris 2015 climate change conferenceThe Obama administration deems it unnecessary, but critics of the Paris agreement on "climate change" believe the Senate ought to have something to say about it.

The U.S. and other nations have agreed to significantly cut their emissions, something President Obama and others believe will benefit people and the environment. "This agreement will help delay or avoid some of the worst consequences of climate change," Obama said at the White House Rose Garden last week.

Meanwhile, Marlo Lewis of the Competitive Enterprise Institute says the Obama administration is unilaterally adopting this "treaty," making the United States a party to it without submitting it to the Senate for its advice and consent.

"The Obama administration argues that it can do this through what's called an executive agreement, an international agreement that the president executes based upon his sole authority either as commander-in-chief or as head of state," Lewis explains. "That is a tremendous breach from all past practice of environmental treaties of any importance."

Lewis says to his knowledge the only environmental agreements with other countries that have been executed this way deal with very limited subordinate matters that are clearly within the president's purview.

"For example, a pact between the United States Armed Forces and the Swedish armed forces to collaborate on ways to reduce environmental impacts at military bases," he offers. "You don't need to run something like that by the Senate – [and] you don't have the run by the Senate a pact between the United States and, say, some country in Latin America or Africa to promote environmental education in primary schools."


But in the case of an agreement like the one from Paris, Lewis argues that's different.

"It's designed to change the energy infrastructure, the energy markets, the energy policies of the entire globe and to commit the United States to transform its own energy system, which means its own part of the U.S. economy," he says. "When you have a treaty of that magnitude, the Senate ought to have something to say about it."

Absent approval by the U.S. Senate, Lewis wrote earlier this year, Obama's pledges under the agreement are "just administration proposals, not commitments" of the U.S.

The Paris climate agreement is due to take effect November 4. However, the EPA's Clean Power Plan is one of the things the U.S. needs to fulfill its non-binding commitments. The Clean Power Plan is currently in legal limbo, and the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to weigh in eventually.


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