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Report: Obama offers UN climate agreement that doesn’t need congressional approval

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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The Obama administration is quietly forging ahead with plans to offer up an international commitment to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to fight global warming — without congressional approval.

Reuters reports that the U.S. submitted its vision for a new international global warming agreement to the United Nations on Wednesday, suggesting a “bifurcated approach” of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol — placing different emissions targets for rich and poor countries.

“So this is just the latest example of President Obama’s contempt for obeying the Constitution and our laws,” Myron Ebell, director of the Center of Energy and Environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “In the past, rulers who act as if the law does not apply to them were called tyrants.”

U.N. diplomats are set to meet in Paris next year to hash out a new international climate agreement, though talks last year were stalled by disagreements over how much rich countries would have to pay poor countries to offset carbon emissions and forgo some development.

“There have been, and will continue to be, dramatic and dynamic shifts in countries’ emissions and economic profiles that make such an approach untenable, environmentally and otherwise,” the United States plan said.

Annie Petsonk, international counsel to the Environmental Defense Fund, noted that the U.S. plan was legally different than the Kyoto Protocol — it doesn’t require congressional approval.

The U.S. Constitution says that the president “shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate” to make treaties with other countries. The 1997 Kyoto Protocol had to be ratified by Congress — and it never was, even though the Clinton administration signed onto it.

But Obama’s plan would rely on individual countries to enforce their own emissions reductions. And since the president has already implemented his own “climate action plan,” the U.S. would not need congressional approval to implement it, since it’s already being done through executive orders. Petsonik said Obama’s U.N. plan was simply an “international counterpart” to his plan to cut U.S. carbon emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 — and not a treaty.

If countries agree to the plan, they would be required to lower their carbon emissions after 2020 and rich countries, like the U.S. and Japan, would be held to the same reduction commitments as poor, developing countries like China and India.

“The only way we’re going to do that is if countries like the United States and France can over time come to a common position, and bring in countries like China and India as well,” a senior administration official told Reuters.

The real question is, can countries like China and India, which are rapidly developing, curb their use of carbon-intensive fossil fuels?

“The U.S. is staking out fairly firm stuff that they want to see,” Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy for the Union of Concerned Scientists, told Reuters. “All the major countries, including China, India and Brazil, are expected to be fairly transparent and detailed. That is the clear reading from this.”

Conservatives and climate skeptics don’t agree.

“CEI has warned for several years that the Obama Administration would follow advice from environmental pressure groups and try to sign a new U.N. agreement that ignores the Senate’s constitutional role,” Ebell said.

“It is also worth noting that any agreement Obama negotiates will not take effect until after he leaves office, so that a future President and Congress will be stuck with the damage it does to the economy,” Ebell added. “But without Senate ratification, it should be fairly easy for a future President and Congress to dismantle.”

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