President Barack Obama’s administration has spent years working behind the scenes to build international support for a global agreement to cut carbon dioxide emissions, but the Paris climate deal is essentially a step backward in the fight against global warming.
“The announcement of a final climate deal from Paris is no more significant to the United States than the Kyoto Protocol announcement 18 years ago,” Oklahoma Republican Sen. [crscore]Jim Inhofe[/crscore] said Saturday of the United Nations deal touted by the Obama administration.
On Saturday, nearly 200 countries signed an agreement to cut CO2 emissions with the goal of keeping future global warming below 2 degrees Celsius. Obama touts the agreement as “the best chance we have to save the one planet that we’ve got.”
What the president left out, however, is the U.N. deal is based on voluntary participation and is virtually unenforceable.
“In contrast to the Kyoto Protocol, the Paris deal removes all legal obligations for governments to cap or reduce CO2 emissions,” says Dr. Benny Peiser, director of the U.K-based Global Warming Policy Foundation. “This voluntary agreement also removes the mad rush into unrealistic decarbonisation policies that are both economically and politically unsustainable.”
“As seasoned observers predicted, the Paris deal is based on a voluntary basis which allows nations to set their own voluntary CO2 targets and policies without any legally binding caps or international oversight,” Peiser says.
The U.N.’s hyped conference in Paris was held so delegates could hash out a successor to the Kyoto Protocol — a legally-binding global warming treaty signed in 1997 and brought into force in 2005. Rich countries that signed the treaty are obligated to reduce CO2 emissions, but poor ones that signed on are not obligated to cut emissions.
The fact that developing countries like China and India aren’t required to cut emissions under Kyoto caused several major countries to abandon the agreement. Paris is supposed to rectify that, but instead resulted in countries simply volunteering to cut emissions with no legal mechanism to hold them accountable.
The White House deliberately chose to base a successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol on voluntary pledges — a legally-binding treaty will require Senate approval and a Republican-controlled Congress will certainly shoot down a U.N. climate treaty.
“Senate leadership has already been outspoken in its positions that the United States is not legally bound to any agreement setting emissions targets or any financial commitment to it without approval by Congress,” Inhofe said.
Obama also needed pledges from China and India, the world’s first- and third-largest CO2 emitters, to show he has the support of large, developing economies in his fight against global warming. Without China or India’s consent, it will be politically impossible for countries to sign a deal that would suffer the same pitfalls as Kyoto.
“This approach – where countries set non-binding targets for themselves – paved the way for 187 mitigation contributions this year and will form the basis for a long-term, durable system to ratchet down emissions,” according to a White House statement.
China pledged to “peak” CO2 emissions by 2030 and increase green energy use, but the country hasn’t promised to make any concrete cuts to emissions. India’s pledge to cut emissions is contingent upon getting $2.5 trillion from rich countries to finance green energy production.
The U.S., however, pledges to cut emissions 26 to 28 percent by 2025. But Obama’s plan for steep CO2 emissions cuts may be undone by Congress or the courts. Republican lawmakers passed legislation to repeal Environmental Protection Agency regulations limiting CO2 from power plants. Twenty-seven states are suing the EPA over these rules as well.
“What is significant for the United States is that we can expect the administration to cite this ‘agreement’ as their excuse for establishing emission targets for every sector of the U.S. economy not only including utilities, but petroleum refining, all manufacturing, agriculture, and others,” Inhofe said.
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