Opinion

Obama administration eyes backdoor Kyoto

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Chris Horner
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      Chris Horner

      Christopher C. Horner serves as a Senior Fellow at CEI. As an attorney in Washington, DC Horner has represented CEI as well as scientists and Members of the U.S. House and Senate on matters of environmental policy in the federal courts including the Supreme Court. He has written on numerous topics in publications ranging from law reviews to legal and industrial trade journals to print and online opinion pages, and is the author of two best-selling books: Red Hot Lies: How Global Warming Alarmists Use Threats, Fraud and Deception to Keep You Misinformed (Regnery, 2008) and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Global Warming and Environmentalism (Regnery, 2007), which spent half of 2007 on the New York Times bestseller list.

Sunday, as the Son-of-Copenhagen was about to kick off in Cancun to try and salvage a Kyoto II treaty, the Washington Post had yet another item, “Climate change talks face crucial test,” noting that the administration’s various ways of imposing global warming regulations include ignoring the Constitution’s treaty process — a process alternately described by champions of this approach as “broken,” as shown by the fact that Kyoto died in the Senate, or something never intended to apply to instruments as complex as Kyoto, once again proved by virtue of the fact that Kyoto died.

By this line of argument, you can see which document these people are more loyal to.

The following passage in the Post story is noteworthy:

However, U.S. special climate change envoy Todd Stern said the United States is standing firm on its pledge to reduce its emissions 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020 even without domestic legislation having passed

In recent weeks, key officials have begun to question whether they can pursue a climate deal outside of the U.N. process if it sputters to a halt in Cancun, whether it’s through global groupings such as the Group of 20 or the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate, which brings together 17 major emitters for regular meetings.

Jonathan Pershing, Stern’s deputy, told reporters Oct. 6, “The consequences of not having an agreement coming out of Cancun are things that we have to worry about. It doesn’t mean that things may not happen; it may mean that we don’t use this process exclusively as the way to move forward.

As Obama said after the electoral shellacking, “there are other ways to skin that cat.” With more journalists regularly employing the traditionally uncommon phrase that Obama is now “halfway through his term,” the clock to engineer the world the way the Obama administration wants does seem to be ticking.

What Stern and Pershing are hinting at is an “executive agreement” strategy. Among these instruments is something called a “Congressional-executive agreement,” which is a treaty that the political class agrees to not call a treaty. Think NAFTA, where Congress voted to, in effect, waive Article II, Section 2 “advice and consent,” vowing “fast-track” authority: a promise of an up-or-down, no amendment, no filibuster vote on whatever is negotiated and presented. The only opportunity to stop that pact is on the vote whether to grant fast-track.

Except that this is not a trade liberalization regime like NAFTA, but an energy rationing scheme that will provide direct wealth transfers from particular, new assessments on American industry and consumers. The drum-beat for this approach began in early 2008, with numerous publications advocating how the president could conclude bilateral agreements with foreign governments carrying the force of law yet never subjected to Congressional approval. If allowed, a web of these would effectively impose climate policy through the backdoor. I addressed this in some detail here and more fulsomely in an item for the Federalist Society’s Engage here.

Outside advocates are ratcheting up their advocacy of this yet again. We all know that Team Soros and other spokes in the wheel of “Big Left” are pushing an executive order strategy, particularly on the “climate” issue now that cap and trade is dead. Anyone who follows the EPA has seen rules in recent months that will shut down cement kilns and paper plants. Power plants are next. Credit Suisse expects 20% of coal-fired power capacity to be shut by 2015, which is when I suggested this would begin on page 1 of Power Grab. Others say it’s more likely to occur between 2018 and 2020. But announcements of plant closings could come as soon as the end of 2011.