Obama’s Decisions Doomed The Paris Climate Accord To Failure In The US, Experts Say
Blame former President Barack Obama for the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris climate accord, according to policy experts, as Obama’s decision to forgo Senate approval and bank on a Democratic win in 2016 made the agreement politically vulnerable.
“The Paris climate agreement was pushed through against the declared will of America’s elected representatives,” Dr. Benny Peiser, director of the UK-based Global Warming Policy Forum, said in a statement.
President Donald Trump announced Thursday he would withdraw the U.S. from the Paris accord, however, some believe that Obama’s decisions to unilaterally impose global warming policies made Trump’s decision easier.
Obama joined the Paris accord in 2016, after years of working behind the scenes to craft the non-binding global warming deal, but he did so without submitting it to the Senate.
His signature achievement on global warming, therefore, depended on Hillary Clinton winning the 2016 presidential election and the courts.
“All the other major players in the Paris negotiations knew it was a crap shoot,” Marlo Lewis, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
U.S. credibility on meeting its Paris goal hinged, in part, on the courts. More than half the states were suing to overturn Obama’s signature global warming regulation, the Clean Power Plan. States were also suing over federal regulations on methane emissions from oil and gas drilling.
“Two months before the signing ceremony in April 2016, they also knew the Supreme Court had taken the extraordinary step of staying the Clean Power Plan before the lower court had even reviewed it,” said Lewis, a vocal opponent of the Paris accord. He and his CEI colleague Chris Horner authored a policy paper, calling for U.S. withdrawal from Paris.
The Supreme Court’s decision to halt the implementation of the Clean Power Plan in February 2016 signaled to the Obama administration and supporters the global warming regulation on power plants could be in legal trouble.
Obama pledged to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. The Clean Power Plan was the main compliance tool, but more policies were still needed to meet the pledge based on government and independent projections.
Clinton’s 2016 victory would have ensured the U.S. remained in the Paris Agreement, but any setback in the courts would have made keeping Obama’s plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions even more difficult to achieve.
“The agreement was always first and foremost a political strategy to perpetuate Obama’s climate agenda for decades despite the policy preferences of future presidents, Congresses, and voters,” Lewis said.
Avoiding The Senate
To climate negotiators it was clear that the Republican-controlled Senate would vote the accord down, so they crafted it in such a way so Obama could declare it an “executive agreement,” rather than a treaty, which did not need legislative approval.
Former French foreign minister Laurent Fabius told United Nations delegates in Bonn, Germany, “We know the politics in the US. Whether we like it or not, if it comes to the Congress, they will refuse.”
Fabius’s remarks came about 6 months before nearly 200 countries agreed to the Paris accord in December 2015. About three months earlier, White House press secretary Josh Earnest was asked if Congress should be involved in crafting and approving the climate deal.
“Well these are individuals whom, many of whom at least, deny the fact that climate change even exists,” Earnest said. “So I’m not sure they would be in the best position to decide whether or not a climate change agreement is one that is worth entering into.”
Republicans had swept the 2014 midterm elections, claiming control of the Senate from Democrats. That pivotal election likely changed the White House’s strategy about how to join a global climate treaty.
Republicans said they would vote down any climate agreement Obama placed before them, so the administration joined Paris in 2016 and treated it as an “executive agreement” that needed no legislative approval.
“U.S. leaders and critics had warned international leaders repeatedly that the US Senate rejected Obama’s deal and that a Republican president would shred it to pieces,” Peiser said. “Now the Paris accord faces the same fate as the Kyoto Protocol which also ended in failure.”
But even if Democrats retained control of the Senate, Obama learned in 2009 the difficulty of passing a global warming bill. That year Obama failed to get a cap-and-trade bill through the Senate — even though his party controlled 59 seats.
Republicans were able to block the cap-and-trade bill, and Obama abandoned the effort to focus on health care and tackling Wall Street. But avoiding the Senate again in 2016 meant a Democrat would have to win the 2016 election, which did not happen.
“Voters foiled their scheme in November 2016,” Lewis said.
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